City leaders address continuous gun violence happening in Savannah

This was the crime scene on East 38th Street where several vehicles were hit by gunshots.
This was the crime scene on East 38th Street where several vehicles were hit by gunshots.(WTOC)
Updated: Nov. 18, 2020 at 7:01 AM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Dozens of gunshots rang out on Savannah’s eastside Tuesday night, marking the third day in a row of gun violence in the city.

The latest incident happened near 37th Street and Atlantic Avenue. No victims were found at the scene but police say a woman did show up to the hospital with a non-life-threatening gunshot wound Tuesday night. They say they believe she may have been at the 38th and Atlantic scene.

A man was taken to police headquarters for questioning in what Chief Roy Minter says was a “suspicious incident,” but would not confirm if it was related to Tuesday night’s shooting.

Mayor Van Johnson addressed the recent gun violence during his weekly update on Tuesday.

“Between January 1st of this year and October 31st, there has been a total of 109 incidents that resulted in injury. These 109 incidents account for 118 victims. Twenty-seven incidents were accidental, meaning there was no intent,” said Mayor Johnson.

Since Sunday, there have been at least five reported shootings, and seven people have had to be treated for gunshot wounds in Savannah. The following is a breakdown of those reported shootings:

City leaders continue to ask witnesses to come forward to help with the investigations.

“We also have an unacceptable number of victims and witnesses who refuse to cooperate with police, and we have no means to compel them to do so. They would prefer to adjudicate this matter in the streets and so then, we expect them to see retaliatory shootings,” said Mayor Johnson.

And in the instances where investigators can talk to victims, police department leaders say they’re hitting a roadblock.

“And that’s what’s really frustrating about these incidents. We’re trying to get information so we can move forward with resolving these issues, and we have people who are victims who are extremely uncooperative,” Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter.

Chief Minter specifically pointed to three of the four victims hospitalized after Sunday night’s shootings. The fourth victim is still in the hospital, unable to talk with investigators. Chief Minter says his officers are finding those caught up in the recent violent crime are previous victims of gun violence or are even suspects in other incidents.

As in years past, Chief Minter says they continue to see a small percentage of the population accounting for most of Savannah’s violent crimes.

“We’re focusing on that population of individuals that we think are the ones that are causing the most disruption in the community as far as crime-related matters,” Chief Minter said.

The chief says the department is focusing resources in areas where they’ve seen an uptick in violent crime, including covert operations among others.

“We’ve still got our special investigations unit who are out there on a nightly basis. And then we also put together a patrol task force,” Chief Minter said.

Minter says the special investigations unit has netted 350 felony arrests and they’ve confiscated nearly 200 guns. But the chief added there are some instances where those arrested are bonding out of jail while awaiting their day in court, which he says is a concern for the department.

Mayor Johnson also said as of Nov. 15, there have been 26 homicides in the city. This time last year, Savannah had 21.

“It begins in the home, it ends in the home. The city is an extension of the home and we’re doing all that we can at the end of the day we can’t go to people’s houses and stop if you shooting each other. We can’t get involved with people’s personal disputes and squabbles and we’re saying fully if you did not deserve or legally should not have a gun, we want those guns out of your hands,” said Mayor Johnson.

He says the pandemic has only made the problem worse because it shut down the criminal justice system for months.

“People who don’t deserve to be on the streets have been on the streets and they’re doing the things they know. We hope now that with some aspects of the criminal justice system re-opening and moving again, indictments coming from the grand jury. We’ll be able to get some of these folks off our streets and into where they need to be,” said Mayor Johnson.

In the meantime, Johnson reached out to the federal government for help and is considering bringing back violence prevention programs. He also says police are doing an excellent job, but there’s not much the city can do when people don’t speak up.

Anyone with information on these or any other shooting incidents should call SPD’s Violent Crimes Tip Line at (912) 525-3124 or Crimestoppers at (912) 234-2020. Tipsters remain anonymous. Tips can also be submitted through a CrimeStoppers online tip portal by clicking here. Tipsters may qualify for a reward up to $2,500, depending on the severity of the crime.

Some of these incidents have involved young people. Mental health experts say gun violence is a response or side effect to untreated trauma.

“I think just focusing on putting the guns away or stop the violence, that’s a part of it but I think the bigger part is what is leading to that? What is leading those behaviors? So I think as a community we hold the responsibility for acknowledging trauma and educating and making ourselves a trauma-informed community so we can respond appropriately to our youth,” said licensed clinical social worker and mental health expert Phylicia Anderson.

Anderson says we have to look into how to be more empathetic when helping our youth who have experienced trauma because that can sometimes lead to them committing violent crimes.

If you know of or are a young person who needs someone to talk to, there are resources available.

Local Resources:

The Front Porch - For more information, call 912-652-6555.

Gateway’s Georgia Apex Program - For more information, please call 912.675.4012 or email

Gateway Community Service Board - For more information, please call 866-557-9955.

Georgia Crisis & Access Line (GCAL) - For more information, call 1-800-715-4225.

National Suicide Prevention Line -For more information, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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