Savannah leaders host community meeting to discuss recent violence in the city

Savannah leaders host community meeting to discuss recent violence in the city

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Getting to Savannah's youth before they turn to a life of crime was one call to action at a special-called meeting to address recent crime in Savannah.

The Savannah Downtown Business Association hosted the panel discussion at the Coastal Georgia Center, which included Savannah's mayor, Metro police chief and district attorney.

The purpose of this meeting was to come up with potential solutions to violent crime and find ways for the business community to become more involved in those solutions.

[WATCH the entire meeting below.]

Some people WTOC spoke to afterward felt it was the same old rhetoric, circling the same topics without any real solutions.

But the president of the Downtown Business Association, Karen Guinn, points out that with a complex issue like crime and all of its causes, the solution is also complex but begins with understanding and education.

"We all need to not only ask the tough questions but roll our own sleeves up and help find the answers. Because the only way we're going to get better as a community is if we stay positive and we focus on real change and real results," Gunn said.

The special-called meeting was in response to violent and deadly Fourth of July holiday in the downtown area, and that prompted some of those tough questions.

"Why did the Fifth of July case prompt the mayor, the Chief of Police, the U.S. Attorney and the entire white community to get tough on the crime? When innocent black people are killed, there's no outcry, no U.S. Attorney, no sentiments from white people," asked one meeting attendant.

"It's important to hear those voices, but it's also important to sustain that accountability and those action items, and channel that passion and that anger and that frustration into something good," Gunn said.

An emphasis also settled on solutions for poverty, and strengthening families which were identified as core issues when it comes to addressing crime.

"And if we don't tackle these root problems, it's just going to continue the same way that it is," said Beverly Willett, another attendee of the meeting.

Having been in the community for several years, Willet admits she did hear a lot of the same talk regarding crime problems in Savannah, and hasn't seen much progress. But she also had this to say.

"I do think what did come out of this is that there were, some, perhaps some of those people on the was the first time that they heard certain things. And that's always a good thing. If you plant that seed," she said.

The Downtown Business Association is compiling a summary of all the suggestions and questions at Wednesday's meeting. The president also says they also had some members come up afterward to ask about participating in mentoring programs.

Something else brought up at the crime meeting was the issue of violent offenders being released early.

As it turns out, a man who pled guilty in 2011 to attempted murder of a police officer will soon be eligible for parole. Keenan Green, who was 19-years old in his mugshot, was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison.

During video showed at the meeting, Green was seen shooting out the back window of a Metro officer's patrol car. But he didn't stop there.

He followed the officer several blocks, firing at him multiple times.

Fortunately, that officer was not hurt.

"We prosecuted him and he received 45 years, 35 to serve. I think that was less than 6 years ago, and we received notice they're letting him out," Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap said.

According to the state board of pardons and parole and, there is currently a law on the books that classifies any records obtained by the board for the consideration process. The District Attorney is among many who think that needs to change.

This as SCMPD reports overall violent crime numbers are slightly down compared to 2016. Even though it's down compared to last year, crime is still up if we look at the numbers in 2015.

Right now, total violent crimes in 2017 stand at 615. This includes crimes like homicide, rape, robberies and aggravated assaults. In 2016, violent crimes were at 654. In 2015, it was 556.

Unfortunately, aggravated assaults with and without guns are up by 20 and 30 percent.

In 2016, there were 153 aggravated assaults with a gun and that's gone up to 175.

Aggravated assaults without a gun have gone from 131 to 164.

According to these crime stats, the majority of those crime numbers is still happening in the city limits of Savannah.

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