End Gun Violence, Youth Intercept make strides to curb violence

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Savannah-Chatham Metro Police continues to implement their End Gun Violence strategy as they continue to target group and gang violence, offering a way out for those involved or potentially involved in criminal activity.

It's been two years since the program was implemented, and it's a program that is continuing to develop in the community.

There have been six call-in sessions since December of 2015, where police bring in people they think are involved in the criminal life and their families to give them a chance to turn things around.

Assaults with guns involved are trending up from this time last year according to police stats and three more instances were added to that list this past weekend.

Two of those shootings were fatal, taking the lives of one 22-year-old man in one shooting, as well as a 27-year-old man in a separate incident. Police say they don't believe any of those were random acts of violence, as is the case for most shooting incidents in 2017.

"I think the most concern that we have right now is that the kids are trying to identify and find a support system," said Youth Intercept Director Sheryl Sams.

Allegations of youth gang activity were center stage following the violence in City Market this July 4th holiday in Savannah.
Since then, gun violence among teens has impacted more than those directly involved. Beach High canceled their homecoming activities following the fatal shooting of one of their students in Septemeber.

Youth Intercept staff say feeling the need for acceptance, protection and a support system is what's driving teens to gang and group activity.

"Nothing surprises me," says Sams. "It has become the norm, and for them, it's a way of life. And so it's hard for us a lot of times to explain to them that forty percent, there's a forty percent chance that if you come to this hospital again, that you will probably be dead."

Sams says their effort is on coordinating resources and creating a network between her program and other entities like the juvenile courts and the Building Bridges Academy. End Gun Violence is also involved in the effort.

End Gun Violence has identified around 22 different groups or gangs in Savannah over the past two years and made contact with 136 individuals.
The national average of those targeted by End Gun Violence coming to authorities for help and resources to get out of the life of crime hovers around 5%.

Here in Savannah, results are much better with 15% asking for a way out.

"There are individuals who are choosing to come out of this life along with their families, and that is what we see on a daily basis," said Dr. George P. Lee III, Project Coordinator for End Gun Violence. "And that gives us hope as a community. Our job in this initiative is to keep those partners at the table, and to share that publicly with others that hey, this is a program for young people through the District Attorney's Office, hey, here's a program through the Chatham County Sheriff's Office with youth camps here."

Projects like End Gun Violence and the Youth Intercept Program through the District Attorney's Office continue to target Savannah's teens and young adults. Teenagers are often involved with those violent acts: either as the targets, or the trigger puller in a dozen incidents over the past five months.

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