– Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023 –

Good morning. This is Jake and in this week’s public safety newsletter: how being critical, questioning and curious can help citizens make sense of a sea of information and get to the truth. We try to highlight that with stories on a questionable Savannah mayoral candidate, how violent crime is both up and down nationally, and a confusing pitch from Georgia state officials on a jobs program for the formerly incarcerated. Let’s go.

How we reported this, what we still don’t know

Tyrisha "T.L." Davis, candidate for mayor.
Tyrisha “T.L.” Davis, candidate for mayor. Credit: Justin Taylor/The Current

Last week, after I spent days at the Chatham County courthouse compiling the records of city council and mayoral candidates, it came time to search for a little-known Savannah mayoral candidate, Tyrisha Davis.

I was surprised to find she had virtually no footprint in Georgia, and the information I could see raised questions about where Davis lived. Her Savannah campaign address was listed to a P.O. Box, her Georgia voter registration was missing an address, and recent court documents from Arizona showed her address as two different P.O. Boxes in that state. Georgia law mandates that a person must live in a city for one year and be a registered voter to be eligible to run for mayor.

Davis did not respond to questions about where she lived and voted. 

After Savannah’s clerk provided me and my editor Margaret Coker with campaign paperwork, we went to that address, knocked on the door in hopes of talking to Davis in person. We were surprised when we arrived. The pink house had a broken window, empty rooms and a “For Rent” sign facing the road. Nobody answered the door, and the property manager said nobody by the name of “Tyrisha Davis” had rented the property

We wrote a story on Monday night detailing what we found and the questions raised about the validity of Davis’s candidacy.

We have heard concerns from many leading current and former local political officials and community leaders about Davis’ registration paperwork and whether any qualifying processes failed or were overlooked.

What do you think about the situation? We want to hear from you. You can email us at staff@thecurrentga.org.

Discrepancies in federal crime reports

police blue lights

One thing The Current‘s data reporter, Maggie Lee, always reminds our newsroom is that data can be wrong.

Data, while often helpful and illuminating, can also be manipulated or misleading. Nowhere is this more evident than in crime statistics. Two recent Department of Justice reports on 2022 crime show that violent crime was both up and down, The Marshall Project reports.

The FBI’s 2022 crime statistics report, which received its data from police departments, found that violent crime declined by 1.7% from 2021. The 2022 Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, which interviewed families across the country to capture unreported crimes, shows a 44% increase in violent crime victimization.

The data mostly diverges due to the different methodologies and a serious lapse in 2021 crime data, due to the fact that nearly 40% of U.S. police departments did not submit crime data to the FBI. Many were unable to meet the criteria of the FBI’s new reporting system.

How can we fend against misinformation or manipulation of crime statistics? Be critical consumers of data. Here’s a story from last October on how criminologists define the crime rate and what to look for in changes.

Re-entry program for Atlanta or Savannah?

Flanked by Chatham County Sheriff’s deputies, Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Bruce Thompson announced a new labor program for prisoner re-entry. However, the program is only for Atlanta inmates at the moment, but he said they will fill job needs in the Savannah area. Credit: Jake Shore / The Current

At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon at the Chatham County Detention Center, Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Bruce Thompson announced a new program to assist incarcerated Georgians with job training and placement to fill prevalent staff shortages across the state.

The commissioner said prisoners would be taught key, job-specific training while still behind bars, and then leave prison with a position already secured for them. The program would be for inmates serving time in the Georgia Department of Corrections and not people in jail.

Thompson disclosed that the program is only rolling out at the Atlanta prison, the Metro Reentry Facility, for the time being. Why Thompson, flanked by Chatham County Sheriff’s deputies, made the announcement at the Chatham County jail was not immediately clear. The commissioner said the Atlanta inmates will help fill some of the staff shortages in the area and across the state.

“Right here, your workforce demands are huge. You’ve got Hyundai, you’ve got Gulfstream, you’ve got the port, you’ve got the jail,” Thompson said. He said the hospitality industry in the Savannah-area needs “hundreds and hundreds of individuals they would love to interview immediately.”

Further questions to the commissioner unfurled further, confusing answers:

  • Thompson stated that research and statistics the agency used to decide on this program are “not for public consumption.”
  • There is no budget for the program, he said. They are using an existing tax credit to incentivize companies. Thompson said they will help formerly incarcerated inmates get housing after release by contacting local churches, until they can afford an apartment with their income.
  • Two individuals with Mayor Van Johnson’s task force for prisoner re-entry approached Thompson after the press conference ended and asked how this program would fit with the existing programs in the area. The commissioner was unfamiliar with them but said if his agency’s program happens to work cohesively with local programs, great. “But I know what we’re doing,” he told them. “We’re driving the truck, and I hope everyone will be able to work alongside us.”

Let us know how we’re doing. Send us a note at staff@thecurrentga.org and tell us. If we’re doing well, share this email with friends — we’d love to meet them.

Where does Savannah’s little-known mayoral candidate live?

By Jake Shore and Margaret Coker

The Current has been unable to find a confirmed Savannah-based home address for Davis, nor any record of her voting in Georgia – two issues that raise questions about whether she meets the requirement that political candidates must live in Savannah for one year and be a valid registered voter to run for mayor.

Continue reading…

Savannah candidates’ records: Driving offenses to drug arrests

By Jake Shore and Margaret Coker

Court files detail lawsuits, traffic offenses, other charges for Savannah mayoral, council District 2 candidates. (Part 2 of 2)

Continue reading…

Republicans say crime is on the rise – what is the crime rate and what does it mean?

By Justin Nix/Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Nebraska Omaha

With political rhetoric saying crime is rising, it’s important to define what U.S. crime rates actually are, specify what crimes politicians are referring to, and verify how accurate those numbers are.

Continue reading…

Brunswick blames crime on homeless shelter and sues to shut it

By Kailey Cota

Christian clergy run Brunswick’s only homeless day shelter. The city is suing to close it, leaving 100 people without services.

Continue reading…

Data dive: How Savannah measures crime

By Maggie Lee

Crime is a part of life in Savannah. But just how bad is it? The Current breaks down police data about safety in Georgia’s first city.

Continue reading…

Reentry program offers formerly incarcerated people healing, dignity through meals

By Lela Nargi/Civil Eats

The Fortune Society’s food and nutrition program works to address the power and relevance of a good meal for people who have been involved in the justice system.

Continue reading…

Support independent, solutions-based investigative journalism without bias, fear or favor on issues affecting Savannah and Coastal Georgia.

Jake Shore covers public safety and the courts system in Savannah and Coastal Georgia. He is also a Report for America corps member. Email him at jake.shore@thecurrentga.org Prior to joining The Current,...