City leaders discuss keeping violent offenders off the streets

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Keeping violent criminals behind bars for as long as the law allows is a tough challenge for Savannah law enforcement leaders, in part because of existing state statutes.

Just last week during a city council meeting, Alderman Tom Bordeaux proposed a change to a provision he says makes no sense when it comes to keeping the worst of the worst locked up.

Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Chief Jack Lumpkin says his main concern is making sure those convicted of things like assault, murder and armed robbery - major crimes involving firearms - get the amount of time behind bars that they should.

"One statute requires a five year sentence for possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime. We want to see the person do the five years, as opposed to being released in 12 to 18 months," said Chief Lumpkin.

Chief Lumpkin saying at a news conference Tuesday at police headquarters they can't be effective in the effort without the cooperation from the courts to give those criminals a proper punishment.

"The crime we've had in this community is driven by gun violence, by perpetrators who essentially who are prohibited from having firearms, or they are using firearms in an illegal way. What we desire is for those individual to have a laser focus on them, and that they actually receive and do the time as the statutes require," said Chief Lumpkin.

The chief, along with Savannah At-large Post 2 Alderman Tom Bordeaux, also talked about the need for state laws to be changed regarding the notification time that violent offenders are up for parole, and could be re-entering the community.

"The police have a hard enough time with what's out there now on the streets, in terms of dangerous people with guns who seem to care nothing about shooting anybody else. They do it at the drop of a hat. And the parole board, instead of keeping people off the street, are adding more," said Alderman Bordeaux.

Alderman Bordeaux says the District Attorney's Office got nine notifications just last week that convicts were up for parole, ahead of their scheduled release. Bordeaux says under current state law, the State Board of Pardons and Parole must give a three-day notice to local law enforcement before making a decision to parole an inmate.

"At the very least the state needs to give advanced notification, at least thirty days advanced notification, before they let a convicted criminal back into the community to do the same thing," said Alderman Bordeaux.

Bordeaux's proposal gives the example of Willie Doyle, a man convicted of the rape and murder of a woman in the late 70s. Even though Doyle was sentenced to life plus twenty years, he was up for parole last week. That parole was later denied, following a challenge from Bordeaux, the DA's Office and Chief Lumpkin. Lumpkin says he's in favor of a more advanced notice from the Board of Pardons and Parole.

"Our legislative delegation has been given that type of notice from the mayor and council, which we need to extend that time parole provides in order to make appropriate objections to those offenders that we think should not return to our community," said Chief Lumpkin.

Bordeaux is asking state leaders to make the amendment to the current law at the beginning of the 2016 legislative session.

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