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Savannah mayor wants to get faith community involved in diffusing situations at crime scenes

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 5:35 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2021 at 6:00 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - We’re hearing from church leaders for the first time since Savannah Mayor Van Johnson weighed in on the role the faith community can play in helping to diffuse situations at crime scenes.

“Ultimately, I would love to see where we have our city broken up into four quadrants, and when something like this happens, we really unleash the faith community to be able to get involved, particularly with issues of retaliation,” said Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.

The call came after a shooting that injured three people on East 36th Street Monday night and follows several other shooting reports over the last week.

At City Hall during his weekly update, Mayor Van Johnson acknowledged the important role church leaders can play when it comes to de-escalating tense situations following critical incidents like shootings in the community.

Mayor Johnson said he’s proposing a plan to approach ministers who can act as violence interrupters when something like a shooting happens in the community. The Mayor applauded the work of police chaplains this past weekend, who responded to calm tensions at the scene of the officer involved shooting. Mayor Johnson says he’d like to see more of that, but on a larger scale, and it’s an idea the leader of the Savannah Police chaplain corps is on board for.

“I think the faith-based community is the perfect community to really embrace our community after a time of tragedy, after a time of crisis. That’s what we do. We love people, we care for people, we help people find hope after difficult situations. And I can’t think of any better group to do it than clergy and the faith-based community,” said Pastor Charles Roberson.

Pastor Charles Roberson was at the officer involved shooting scene this past Saturday night working to ease tensions there. WTOC asked him about training for any clergy wanting to volunteer to help as the new initiative gets off the ground. Pastor Roberson said while some crisis and violence interrupter training would be beneficial, in his opinion volunteers wouldn’t necessarily need the hundreds of hours police chaplains undergo for their duties.

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