Murders in Savannah have dropped significantly compared to the same period in each of the last seven years.
Only one homicide has been reported to the Savannah Police Department this year, as of May 27. During the same week in 2022, the department had recorded 16 murders. There were 12 reported murders by late May in 2021 and 17 in 2020.
These numbers come from the police department’s weekly crime reports. The Chatham County Police Department, which oversees the less-populated and unincorporated parts of the county, has recorded two homicides during the same period each year since 2021, statistics show.
Savannah Assistant Police Chief Robert Gavin credits the change to several factors: using crime data for police to focus on so-called “hotspots” of crime, more community engagement and violence interruption efforts, investment in technologies like ShotSpotter and BriefCam, and increased officer morale.
“Trying to pinpoint people that are causing issues in certain areas and removing them is part of that,” Gavin said. “No doubt along with a lot of community engagement.”
A 2010 study on “hotspot” or place-based policing, while great at reducing crime in the short-term, does not take into account potential long-term harm to communities of color. A 2021 Brookings Institute report argues economic, aesthetic and workforce investment in a community is a more reliable indicator of the rise and fall of violent crime than typical crime data.
Still, in the last year, Savannah funded the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE) division with a $1.3 million budget. The agency administers violence interruption and mediation programming plus youth camps and mentorships to divert youth involved in violence.
The city also increased funding for the police department’s mental health unit and approved a Cure Violence program for the city.
While the murder rate drop is a refreshing statistic, Gavin warned that the onset of summer could mean more crime. The season is typically when more crime occurs.
In Savannah, this usually means tourists who leave valuables in their cars and later report those items stolen, according to Gavin. Many tourists leave guns in their cars, he said, and inadvertently assist in future violent crime.
Gavin said 100 guns have been stolen out of cars in the city so far this year.
“For those wanting to steal,” Gavin said, “Our population during that summer time with a lot of visitors, a lot of tourists makes it a very target-rich environment.”
The Tide brings news and observations from The Current staff.