Savannah city leaders, community programs hoping to keep kids from a life of crime

(Source: WTOC/file)
(Source: WTOC/file)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The epidemic of teens getting wrapped up in gang and group violence has been under the microscope this week after Savannah-Chatham Metro Police said the three people behind Wednesday morning's City Market shooting were involved with a local gang.

Police say 17-year-old Jerry Chambers, Jr. was driving the SUV that crashed on Bay Street killing the other two people in the vehicle and an innocent bystander. Chambers is now charged with three counts of felony murder.

"The grandmothers, the mothers, the fathers, it will take all of us to make sure that we raise responsible kids who do responsible things," said Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach.

Mayor DeLoach made this comment following a prepared statement ahead of Thursday's council meeting, once again calling for a community effort to curb youth violence.

City leaders and youth advocates alike say a big part of that is keeping kids off the streets, especially past curfew, is key.

"Moving young people from a place they're not supposed to be and ensuring they are where they should be. Obviously, it's a big issue for law enforcement. It's a pain in the neck. But to me, it's absolutely necessary," said District 1 Alderman Van Johnson.

Kids 16 and under past curfew, which is 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends, can be picked up by police. Depending on the circumstances, they're taken to the youth detention center or to Park Place Outreach.

"For too long, I think we have looked only at, we need police services and this child needs to be incarcerated. And we're not really looking at the root problem. How did this child get into this position," said Park Place Outreach, Inc. Executive Director Julie Wade.

Wade says putting a teen into the juvenile detention center for a curfew violation isn't the answer, and often exposes kids to worse influences.

Wade says her shelter has openings for kids who police find on the streets or those who just need help, and she's working with the juvenile justice system to fill those spots.

"We really need to look beyond, let's put more police cameras out there and more police officers and really touch those children before they ever encounter these opportunities for this kind of behavior," Wade said.

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