Every week Savannah’s police department publishes a “crime report” with benchmark statistics that end up in headlines, political debates, and kitchen table talk. 

The Current breaks down the data, what’s in these reports — and what’s not — to help feed these discussions of safety in the city.

The Savannah Police Department’s weekly list details several types of violent and non-violent crime. It tallies misdemeanors like car break-ins and shoplifting as well as felonies like rape and murder.  

The categories are standard to thousands of police departments across America and are known formally as “Part I” reports. The data gets used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to measure “level and scope of crime” in the United States.  The FBI chose the Part I categories because they “are serious crimes, they occur with regularity in all areas of the country, and they are likely to be reported to police.”

Savannah’s Part I reports exclude several categories of crime, like fraud, drug sales, or weapons violations.  There’s no public report that tallies those crimes.

Savannah PD — like thousands of agencies nationwide – has yet to update reporting to a new FBI standard set in 2021. The new FBI system includes more detail on crime victims, the use of firearms in crimes and expanded crime criteria by arrests.  

And no crime report can count what the police never hear about, like an instance of porch piracy that is not called in by the porch owner, or domestic violence against a victim who feels too scared to report the abuse. 

Savannah PD only polices the city — other communities like Tybee Island, Pooler and unincorporated Chatham County have their own police departments that aren’t part of Savannah’s report.

The FBI also says these statistics are not for ranking cities by safety. Communities are too different from each other to be comparable: anything from poverty to highways affect a crime rate. Instead, this high-level sample of data is recommended for things like planning police budgets, understanding one particular jurisdiction, or researching one area’s trends over time.

So, SPD reports are a sort of index that stands for the whole story about how crime affects the Hostess City. Given that, here’s a summary of Savannah’s data:

Savannah PD’s original reports break up these reports into a few more subcategories

“Burglary” means breaking into a place and stealing from there, but without the use of force or violence against a person.  For example: those crimes include a robber breaking into a store that’s closed.  

When a criminal uses force or violence or threatens a person while stealing, the crime becomes labeled as “robbery.” 

“Larceny” is stealing too, but in these cases there’s no breaking into a building and no violence against anybody. Examples of larceny include shoplifting, sudden snatching of bags and purses, pick-pocketing, stealing packages from porches, taking bikes from sidewalks, or lifting mail.