Police to Receive Temporary Help from Sheriff's Deputies - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports


Police to Receive Temporary Help from Sheriff's Deputies

Chief Willie Lovett says this is a temporary solution to a staffing shortage. Chief Willie Lovett says this is a temporary solution to a staffing shortage.

Savannah-Chatham police are dealing with a real problem. They're down more than 50 officers and until they can train and hire more, they're looking for immediate answers. Yesterday on WTOC, Chatham County chairman Pete Liakakis outlined an idea for paying county sheriff's deputies overtime to boost police presence. Today, Chief Willie Lovett spoke out about the idea.

Recent violent crimes certainly put the issue on the front burner. But Chief Lovett says it's actually a response to the mayor's task force on crime last summer. He says we saw 33 murders last year, compared to 24 the year before. And as this is only his fourth official day on the job, he's under a lot of pressure to make some changes.

Starting very soon, Chatham County will pay its sheriff's deputies overtime to work directly for police. "It could be as early as tomorrow or the next day or as late as next week," said Chief Lovett. "It depends on how soon we can get this to work out."

Chief Lovett says they'll likely concentrate on populated areas like River Street, south to Anderson Street and Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard east to East Broad Street. But deputies will go wherever the need is greatest.

"If we have an area that say, at 6pm, the calls for service are greater, that's where they'll be," Chief Lovett said.

The main purpose for bringing deputies on board is to increase law enforcement visibility. While deputies will be able to respond to incidents they see on the street, they won't be dispatched to calls unless it's an emergency.

As Chief Lovett said, "I think visibility is the big issue here."

Both agencies will have to work out logistics like radio frequencies and report forms, but county sheriff Sgt. Tommy Tillman says deputies are ready to step up to help. "The deputies come from the community that they serve, so they have as big a stake in it as anybody else. We are all law enforcement officers and we're all looking to try to put a damper on crime."

But Chief Lovett sees it as a short-term solution to the problem. "The reason this is coming about is, we do have shortages in the department and this is to address those shortages until we can get people on the street."

Chatham County officials say the money will come from their maintenance and operating budgets. Savannah-Chatham police are also getting another 25 or 26 people to help soon. A new class of recruits starts the police academy next Wednesday.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com


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