City leaders react to CNN piece on Savannah crime - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

City leaders react to CNN piece on Savannah crime

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

Savannah is getting national and international attention after CNN ran a story, focusing on our crime problems. Specifically the large number of murders and cases of gun violence.

Well, our leaders - whether with police, tourism and business - watched that story too, and Friday they were reacting to it.

I do not think anyone is arguing with the facts. They are what they are. I think what has some leaders confused is why some people think negative publicity on a national scale is a good thing

One of the premises of the story, that this problem has been hidden is simply not true. If you have turned on the news in the past year, almost every night there are stories about crime.

But now with it on a national and international stage, could this be the tipping point where we really start to see the impact on tourism and our economy?

"You know it is hard to argue with facts. There is a lot more people in the world that know about what we have known for a very long time,” said Tourism Leadership Council CEO/President Michael Owens.

Reaction has been mixed. Some on social media stating that this is good to finally get in the national spotlight, to take the crime problem out of the shadows. That now things will start getting done.

However, some city leaders don't understand that way of thinking.

"Is a CNN story going to help? I do not see how it helps,” said Owens.

Owens tells WTOC he didn't see a problem with the story but says it wasn't something we, as members of this community, didn't already know.

"I do not know what else we have talked about over the past year,” he said.

There was some things missing from the report, things that show the work that is being done.

"We have a fully staffed police force for the first time in over 15 years. We have a fully funded ShotSpotter program. We have a fully funded ballistics and forensics tool called NYBAN that we have recently purchased,” said Owens.

Call it like it is: National exposure like this can hurt the tourism industry and can impact our economy.

"This story could be that point. We hope it’s not,” said Owens. “I do not know how we improve as a community, I do not know how we fix crime and I do not know how we improve education, and the work force alike, by turning down our economy."

"It does not help the businesses, it does not help tourism and it does not help the downtown community. It certainly does not do anything to solve the crime problem we are facing,” said Downtown Business Association President Karen Guinn.

Guinn says the numbers are terrifying but every agency, every person that has a part in this is working to fix it. And stories like the one CNN did don't help.

"It does make you think twice about visiting, and that is not positive for anybody,” said Guinn.

At this point, there is no way of knowing whether this will have the impact some fear. As of yet, the increase of crime and gun violence is not having an effect on tourism that some had predicted.

Thursday, the airport says the number of visitors to Savannah is up for another straight year.

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