Deadly shooting, crash puts End Gun Violence program under microscope

(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - For the first time, we are hearing from the leader of Savannah's first major effort to combat gun violence. Those efforts are now under the microscope following Wednesday's deadly shooting and crash near City Market.

The "End Gun Violence" initiative started a year and a half ago. However, it has new leadership and is now under the Chatham County District Attorney's Office.

After Wednesday's violent crime, they reached out to victim's and friends and family of them to prevent any retaliation. This whole initiative aims to zero in on our city's most violent offenders and get their attention before something bad happens.

Crimes just like this are the ones police hope to get in front of. Wednesday, that didn't happen. As a result, three people are dead including an innocent bystander. All the result of senseless gang violence.

"When you have those types of weapons in the hands of children, recklessness becomes the order of the day so our goal is to intervention and prevention," said End Gun Violence Project Manager George Lee III.

Intervention and prevention are exactly what this initiative's leaders say is beginning to happen. In the last three months, police and other agencies have identified 20 people at risk of being involved in gun crimes.

"The message is simple, succinct, and clear. We want you to live and we want the people around you to live, that there is another option then the lifestyle of which you are a part of," said Lee.

Police and an End Gun Violence worker hand deliver letters, signed by the chief, letting these people know they're in police crosshairs. In just the past three months, six of the 20 potentially violent offenders asked for help.

"That's a huge jump," said Leslie Dunn, the initiative's Community Support and Outreach coordinator.

That's six people who are at risk to shoot someone or get shot. They offer them jobs, education, and even new housing if it's necessary for them to change.

"There is an interest. It's not just 'get lost, get off my doorstep'. There is an interest within the community, and a lot of times it's all about you approach a person and their family," said Dunn.

The shift is happening in Savannah. It is much later and slower than what many citizens here may like. Wednesday is just a painful reminder of the pain the actions of a couple teens can cause this city.

"The more we have people that are passionate and concerned as we have seen in the past few days, the better we are able to push out into our city, our county, and our region to a place of safety and security," said Lee.

It's security that hopefully, this program can bring to the city of Savannah.

According to Dunn, the two people killed in the car and the teen charged with murder had not been contacted by police directly in the last three months. However, the chief did say all three were known to police and involved with juvenile gangs.

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