Savannah alderman planning community forum to address gun violence in wake of mass shooting

Published: Jun. 13, 2021 at 11:32 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - After a string of violent crimes in Savannah, including the mass shooting on Avery Street on Friday, District Six Alderman Kurtis Purtee says he is sick of the violence. Purtee knew he needed to take action and is now working to find solutions.

“I have sat up late every night thinking about this, crying about this, getting mad about this, and there’s no simple answer to it, but the best thing I can do as a community representative is to bring people together to have this tough conversation and figure out where we go from there,” he said.

Like others in the city, Purtee was devastated to learn about Friday’s mass shooting on Avery Street on Friday and he thinks we need to address the underlying issues causing these tragedies in our streets.

“You have to look at the core of the problem. What is really going on in the City of Savannah? And I’m telling you right now, it’s drugs and gangs,” Purtee said.

With his background in law enforcement, Purtee’s putting together a wide variety of people to tackle the tough topic of what to do next. He’s pulling together a group including attorneys, church leaders and former police officers to get a wide range of perspectives and ideas. One of the people he’s called on is Kevin Grogan, a former homicide detective.

“Violent crime needs to be treated like a trauma patient. Our city is bleeding out. We have an arterial bleed. When you’re talking about the root causes of crime and that kind of stuff, you’re talking about the cholesterol level and that. We need to surgically go in and stop the bleeding. The only way to do that is proactive policing,” said Kevin Grogan.

He’s looking for a frank and honest conversation. While he has ideas, he knows others do too and all must work together to answer the hard questions.

“You cannot solve a complex problem with one ‘Okay, this is the way I see it, this is the way we’re going to do it.’ That’s not going to solve it. It has to come from a group of people who understand,” said Grogan.

Alderman Purtee says that’s the purpose of the forum, to bring everyone to the table and move forward together for the benefit of the entire city and its safety.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, doesn’t matter the color of your skin, your gender, your sexual orientation, your political background, all members are going to be there, we’re going to have this conversation and we’re going to try to move forward in the City of Savannah. We’re going to try to make our community a lot safer,” said Purtee.

Alderman Purtee says he thinks the things the city is doing to address gun violence are great foundational blocks, but we must make sure they tie together. He tells WTOC he is still working out the details of the community forum, but plans to release details this week so they can get to work.

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