Citizens Form Crime Task Force Following Teen's Murder - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

01/02/06

Citizens Form Crime Task Force Following Teen's Murder

Jennifer Ross was shot on Christmas Even in Orleans Square; she died on New Year's Day. Jennifer Ross was shot on Christmas Even in Orleans Square; she died on New Year's Day.

Days after she was mugged and shot in downtown Savannah, a young woman is dead. Tonight, family and friends of 19-year-old Jennifer Ross are rallying the public to help solve Savannah's crime problem.

They unveiled a five-point anti-crime plan. The immediate goal is to get citizens involved. The ultimate goal is to stop violent crime. After the shooting, the people closest to her family have stepped up and are calling for action.

At 3am on Christmas Eve morning in Orleans Square in Savannah, Jennifer was shot in the stomach. Her friend was knocked out with a handgun. The three attackers got away.

New Year's Day, Jennifer died. Like so many others, her family and friends were confronted with the reality of Savannah's crime problem.

"Jennifer, this sweet girl,19 years old, had so much to offer this community and her friends," said Jennifer's uncle Adger Ross.

"To shoot someone over 40 bucks or 20 dollars, that's a couple of gutless wonders who have no respect for life," said family friend Dave Simons.

But they're fighting back. Simons, along with Jennifer's uncle, county commissioner Helen Stone and other community leaders and lawmakers unveiled their crime-fighting plan. It breaks down like this:

1. They want the public to realize and admit crime is a problem.
2. They're forming a volunteer task-force called Save Our Savannah.
3. They want local governments to work on hiring more cops  and recruiters.
4. They want the media to enhance our coverage of crime.
5. They're asking for reform in the juvenile justice system.

"It's been such an accepted problem, we have to deal with it," said Stone.

The crime touched too close to home for Stone. Jennifer was her goddaughter. She's now spearheading government involvement. "It's terrible this way, but that's often the case when tragedy takes place," she said.

"If it happens to someone you love, it makes you that much more motivated to make a change," said Simons.

"We want to try and prevent this from happening again," said Adger Ross. "We love our city and want it safe."

In a short period of time, they have made some progress. The Chatham County sheriff has agreed to use deputies to patrol areas assigned by Savannah-Chatham police. They say it will take a combined effort between city, county and state.

Savannah-Chatham police have met with Helen Stone twice in the last week. We are told they will listen to the task force, but Chief Willie Lovett will outline his strategies for crime in the near future.

If you want to be a part of this crime task force, drop an email to martinsullivan@saveoursavannah.com.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com

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