There isn’t any doubt that Savannah-Chatham Metro Police have been busy in the last couple of months, trying to fight an increasing crime problem while they are working to recruit and retain officers.
Friday, Police Chief Jack Lumpkin painted a pretty rosy picture to Chatham County Commissioners of where his department his headed and the benefits it brings to the entire county. Recruitment is on track, community outreach has taken off.
Chief Lumpkin covered a lot of ground, but commissioners seemed particularly interested in the year-end crime stats for 2015. For the whole jurisdiction, 2015 saw 53 homicides, five of those happening in the unincorporated areas of Chatham County, up two from 2014. The unincorporated areas also saw a rise in aggravated assaults and burglaries.
But in addition to presenting crime stats, Chief Lumpkin also highlighted the department’s efforts to combat crime, showing the results from the four Violent Crimes Task Force operations of 2015.
And, Metro is only looking at 27 vacancies after last year's recruiting push, which is the lowest the department has seen in ten years. Commissioners shared concern over the rising numbers of violent crimes, particularly homicides, as well as property crime. At one point, Commission Vice-Chair Dr. Priscilla Thomas offered her input as to the root cause of criminal activity, saying crime prevention starts in the home.
"Make sure that your child or your children are in your homes at night. I see too many teenagers walking the street at ten, eleven and twelve o' clock at night. What are they doing up? That's how they get involved in stuff. And they become involved with gangs, and so forth and so on,” said Dr. Thomas. "Crime is everywhere. Everywhere in Chatham County. So, it's going to take everybody to be a part of the solution."
Chief Lumpkin also talked with commissioners about still pursuing starting up a Police Activity League, which also helps with youth outreach. The chief says the league will happen once the department is up to full staff.