Savannah businesses, police work to address crime linked to homeless population

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 6:44 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Some of Savannah’s downtown business owners have expressed concerns surrounding the unsheltered, or homeless population, and what business owners say they’re doing around their property.

One business owner said her business, and others she’s checked in with nearby, have had issues with people defecating and leaving garbage at their front entrances overnight.

“Just the past couple days I’ve talked to just five or six that all tell me the same thing…having to call 911, have to clean up the doorways,” Locally Made Savannah owner Tonya Rintye said.

Rintye says in other instances, people police believe are homeless have started fights directly outside her business, and even broken the glass at the front of the store.

“It’s just not a good look for our city, and it can be very dangerous if you come upon that, you don’t know what kind of state of mind they’re in when they’re fighting. So obviously I’ve had to call 911, someone was threatening to shoot people on the sidewalk,” Rintye said.

Rintye says on several occasions, her employees have had to ask people to leave that fall asleep at their tables, which are for customers, only to be yelled at.

“I don’t know if it’s more patrols that need to be happening during the middle of the day too, to be on the lookout for this. Because by the time you do call 911, and by the time police officers can respond, they’ve already moved along. And then they’re just back the next day kind of doing the same thing,” Rintye said.

Helping to address some of the issues and concerns is Cpl. Janessa Stalter, who specializes in tourism-oriented policing and quality of life in the downtown area, which routinely involves the homeless.

“Lately, we’ve had a few homeless that like to break storefront windows and go inside the businesses and burglarize them. And we figured out who that was and arrested him. So, he has numerous felonies,” Savannah Police Cpl. Janessa Stalter said.

Cpl. Stalter says she’s also aware of the issues business owners like Rintye are facing and is working to educate them on what steps police can and cannot take. Stalter said, when possible, officers also try to link people they encounter when responding to these calls to services, like mental health care.

“We try to network each of those individuals that need that assistance into that area. And sometimes we’ll give them rides there so they can go in, because some of the facilities are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Cpl. Stalter said.

Cpl. Stalter says when someone is violating state law or local ordinances, for police to be called to file a report, to at least create a paper trail for those who are repeat offenders.

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