Downtown Business Association joins fight to curb recent outbreak of violence

Published: Jul. 30, 2014 at 3:02 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2014 at 3:01 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Savannah has gone more than a day without a shooting, and over the past two weeks, that is a rare feat.

The city has seen 15 shootings in just over two weeks, and it has left people scared and the city scrambling for answers.

But city officials are not alone. There are a number of organizations that are reaching out to help, offer ideas and move projects forward. One of those organizations is the Downtown Business Association.

Ruel Joyner is a father and also a business owner downtown, so he has a big dog in this fight. The reputation that Savannah has garnered over the past few weeks is something he won't stand for, so he and his organization are getting involved.

A triple shooting in Savannah less than 42 hours ago has people in the city on edge.

"I do not know if all of them are scared. I think a lot of them are mad. They feel helpless and want something done," said Joyner, the president of the Downtown Business Association.

Joyner said he has been in meetings with city officials for the past two weeks.

"From our vantage point, we have been working very hard with the city to bring in new ideas and programs to implement, to move the city forward," he said.

One of those programs is Operation Cease Fire. It uses public and private resources to intervene in the lives of those most at risk for committing a violent crime, something that the DBA wants to see happen here, now.

"We have reached out to larger cities that have implemented things like this, and it has worked," said Joyner. "we are not re-inventing the wheel here."

According to the city spokesman, a task force has been created to look into Operation Cease Fire and will report their findings to the city manager. They said that should be happening soon.

"I would like to see more communication so we know what is going on as far as timelines," said Joyner.

How will this violence affect businesses or tourism? Will people still want to visit Savannah? Joyner said at a time like this, it's not about the visitors.

"It is about our citizens that are here," he said. "What makes them safe will make our tourism safe, and that will, in turn, make our businesses thrive."

And the message from the mayor, the police department, the city manager and pretty much everybody else is the same.

"It's not just a business initiative," Joyner said. "It can't be. It cannot be just a government initiative. It can't be. The government has to take the lead, but at the end of the day, it's about all of us coming together."

The biggest way the public can help? Police say if you hear anything, no matter how small, call them or CrimeStoppers.

All of the shootings are still under investigation.

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