SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The city of Savannah saw an increase in homicides last year. Early numbers show a 33-percent rise in 2020, according to Mayor Van Johnson.
This comes on the heels of a domestic-related shooting Tuesday, and a fatal shooting Sunday afternoon.
The mayor says the exact number of homicides could change depending on the adjudication process. He outlined the following trends for violent crimes.
- Altercations being resolved with weapons.
- Buying and selling drugs
- Gun-related incidents
- And people who are currently awaiting trial and are now victims of retaliation.
The Mayor did offer his thoughts on some of the underlying issues, while also putting out the plea to the public to step up and cooperate with police investigations.
“It amazes me to talk to someone who’s been a victim of gun violence, and they’ll tell me they don’t know who shot them, or they know who shot them and they don’t want to tell. Which is the indicator that they prefer to handle it themselves, and they want to handle it in the streets. And that is an indication to officers that something else is going to happen,” Mayor Johnson said on Tuesday during his weekly news conference.
Mayor Johnson said one of the reoccurring themes triggering gun violence is fights between two people or groups being resolved with weapons. The Mayor says another cause is drug sales and purchasing, and added looking over a number of cases, recent gun violence stems from some type of robbery involving drug-related items.
Mayor Johnson highlighted what he sees as another common denominator in recent shootings around Savannah, and that’s retaliation.
“Individuals who are currently awaiting trial for various offenses and are now victims of retaliation or retaliating against witnesses. And I’ve told you on numerous occasions it amazes me to talk to someone who’s been a victim of gun violence, and they’ll tell me they don’t know who shot them. Or they know who shot them, but they don’t want to tell.”
Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter also weighed in on the gun violence, and WTOC spoke with him one on one after the news conference about a new initiative the department is pursuing to combat it.
Chief Minter said the department signed a contract with Chicago-based anti-violence program, Cure Violence Global. The Chief says the company will do an assessment of Savannah by the end of next month at the latest to see if their program is a good fit here.
“The way the assessment usually works is they usually come to that jurisdiction, usually for about a week to ten days. They’ll spend time going around the community talking to community members. Of course with COVID, they’ve kind of had to adjust that, so they’ll be doing those virtually,” said Chief Minter.
Chief Minter also addressed a more short term issue during Tuesday’s news conference, and that’s his department’s preparations for inauguration week.
“We’ve got our intelligence center that’s up and running and monitoring all local and national-level intelligence. We also have a command desk where we’re coordinating that information and communicating with the FBI’s command post in Atlanta.”
While the Chief says there are no known credible threats to the City for inauguration week, they’re making sure they have as many officers as possible available just in case.
“All non-uniformed personnel, i.e. detectives, are all required to be in uniform this week. In the event that something happens and we have to deploy additional resources, they’re already ready, they already have their equipment and their uniforms on.”
The Chief added the three areas of focus right now for the week, and beyond really, are making sure they’re gathering as much intelligence as possible, and having a good operations and action plan in place in the event that something happens and they have to respond.
As a reminder, citizens can report crimes anonymously by calling the Savannah Police Department’s Crime tip line at 912-525-3124.
Rewatch Mayor Johnson’s news conference: