Thursday, June 1, 2023

Savannah police department cars
Savannah Police Department

Drop in Savannah murders

Murders in Savannah have seen a steep decline 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 this week in 2021 and 17 in 2020. 

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. 

Read more from The Current‘s interview with Gavin, how studies point out flaws in hotspot policing and how the city has invested in community engagement.

While approving construction of 16 warehouses since January 2022, Liberty County does not have a map of where its fire hydrants are located. County Manager Joey Brown said they are working to create one. Credit: Justin Taylor/The Current

Fire safety in Liberty: How we reported this

Last week, The Current published a five-month investigation into Liberty County’s fire protection. The story shed light on a fire department lacking basic equipment, pre-planning and staffing. The failures had disastrous results for one east Liberty County couple whose home burned down and increased residents’ anxieties about warehouses coming to the area.

First, The Current had to obtain documents and videos from the night of the fire to learn where Liberty County Fire Services went wrong. They showed a scattered response and differing narratives from the chief and his troops on the ground.

From there, the reporter consulted with Coastal Georgia fire chiefs and national fire codes to determine fire department best practices when responding to low-water areas like east Liberty County.

The Current filed open records requests to the county fire department to see if it followed those best practices, like creating pre-planning reports or maintaining fire hydrant maps. The county responded it did not have any reports or maps. A request for an equipment list showed how the agency didn’t have a ladder truck for years, despite its multimillion-dollar budgets.

The reporter also watched multiple hours of county commission meetings from 2020 to 2023 to figure out how many new warehouses were coming to east Liberty County (16 approved since last January). The Current spoke with residents, county officials and fire experts for this story.

Do you have thoughts on fire protection in Liberty County? Reach out to us at

Connor Mathis, 16, of Brunswick was found dead on Jekyll Island after being reported missing on Memorial Day. Credit: Glynn County Sheriff's Office

Teen’s death underscores water safety

Georgia authorities found the body of a missing teenager on Jekyll Island on Tuesday, after a multi-agency and volunteer search effort. 

Connor Mathis, 16, of Brunswick was found dead after being reported missing from youth camp on Monday evening. A marine patrol boat by the Camden County Sheriff’s Office “discovered the body of the missing youth in the surf off the Jekyll Island Beach,” the agency said. 

Though his cause of death is not public, Mathis’ death belies the danger of drowning-related fatalities for children and teenagers. 

Unintentional drownings were the number one cause of injury deaths for Georgia children aged between 1 and 4, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health data. The agency measured leading causes of death by age group between 2013 and 2017. 

Drowning is the sixth highest cause of injury death for young people aged between 15 and 24, behind suicides and car crashes. 

Here are some recommendations from experts with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources on how to keep children and teens safe:

  • Supervise children swimming
  • Employ prevention tools like fencing around a pool or flotation devices while swimming
  • Use life jackets
  • Give children swim lessons
  • Have a water safety plan in advance

Have a question, comment or story idea? Email us at

The Tide: Drastic decline in Savannah murder statistics

One homicide has been reported to the Savannah Police Department as of late May. During the same time last year, 16 murders had already been recorded by the city police department.

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Development continues as Liberty County fire protection lags 

Liberty County officials have pushed for warehouse development while its fire department lacks key equipment and safety standards. A historic home fire in November displayed the glaring deficiencies at the fire department.

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Audit: Rural hospital tax credit paying off

The program allows donors to contribute to hospitals in counties with populations of 50,000 or less and reduce their state income tax liability by the amounts they donate. Taxpayers may choose a specific hospital or, if one is not designated, the hospital will be chosen based on a ranking of need.

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Georgia study about grief shows how a person can die from a broken heart

A new study of adults in Georgia shows people grieving the death of a loved one are at greater risk of binge drinking than those not in bereavement, which can lead to potentially fatal consequences.

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Savannah-Chatham County school board announces superintendent pick

Dr. Denise Watts, chief of the Houston Independent School System, was named the sole finalist to oversee nearly 36,000 students and 5,600 employees and administer a budget of more than $592 million.

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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. Prior to joining The Current, Jake worked for the Island Packet and...