Consider This: Tougher penalties for juvenile gang crimes

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A day of celebration turned into a night of tragedy on the streets of Savannah last week. What likely started as an act of gang retaliation in City Market, led to the eventual death of Scott Waldrup, the much beloved general manager of "The Grey". He was nothing more than an innocent bystander literally in the exact wrong place at the exact wrong second.

The day after the shooting, Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Chief Jack Lumpkin spoke of the need to get more police on our streets to better battle our escalated gang problems. While there's no arguing that point, police were all over City Market as the initial shooting took place. So, even their strong presence wasn't enough to stop that violent attack.

The chief also spoke of the need for the community to come together to combat this problem, but it's going to take more than that.

Jerry Chambers, who's 17 years old, and a known member of the "Only the Mob" gang, now sits in jail, charged with three felony counts of murder. One for Waldrup's death, the other two for the passengers in his van that were killed in the subsequent chase and crash.

Chambers is no stranger to police. Just over a year ago, he was arrested for an armed robbery attempt in which the elderly female victim was shot. His case, because of a loophole in the law, went through the far more lenient Juvenile Court system and a judge decided not to convict him. 

Consider this: If we're going to get serious about our gang problems, we're going to have to get serious about sending those young offenders through the adult judicial system. Plain and simple, no matter the age, if a minor is accused of a crime in which weapons are involved or they're a known gang member, then they must be tried in a Superior Court.

Until we demand that our state lawmakers change the laws and hold these youthful thugs accountable, we're all in danger of becoming the next Scott Waldrup.

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