January 26, 2023

Glock pistol Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Savannah’s top gun company

The largest share of guns that Savannah police recover from crime scenes are made by one company: Glock.

That is according to 2020 to 2021 data released this month by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which Savannah is a member of, and national group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Glock is the top firearm recovered from crime scenes in Savannah and several U.S. cities. The company’s pistols are low cost and easy to use (“simply point and shoot”), the report said. 

Gun manufacturers like Glock say they sell their firearms wholesale to dealers and don’t control where they end up. In its report, Everytown calls for companies to better track which dealers it sells to are breaking the rules and to stop working with ones who make sales where background checks are flouted – like at gun shows or online marketplaces. 

One gun dealer located in Georgia is responsible for an astonishing amount of guns sold that were later used in crimes. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) regulates gun sales and released limited, anonymized data on gun dealers to the House Oversight Committee last spring. The committee analyzed the sales data and links to crime weapons of 12 dealers, including one unidentified dealer in Georgia, which ATF dubbed “GA01,” between 2014 and 2019.

“Roughly one in ten of the guns sold by this dealer was later used in a crime,” the committee wrote.

The ATF refused to disclose the dealers’ identities, telling Congress it had concerns that gun sale transparency would discourage dealers from collaborating with them in investigations. 

Read the Oversight Committee’s April 2022 letter that disclosed how one Georgia gun dealer sold 6,000 guns later used in crimes.

Gunshot detector ShotSpotter has been in Savannah since 2014

‘Audit ShotSpotter’

Savannah pays more than half-a-million dollars annually for ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection program that is supposed to help police curb gun violence. Last April, the city significantly expanded the boundaries of where ShotSpotter tracks shootings to every council district.

The program is stationed in most major U.S. cities but has been facing an increasing swell of criticism for lackluster results, little transparency and high price tags. Last summer, The Current investigated ShotSpotter in Savannah and reported how the city and police department do not track data about ShotSpotter’s effect on crime in the city. 

Savannah-based nonprofit Deep Center, which advocates for justice reform and youth programming, cited The Current’s reporting, calling for the Savannah Police Department and city officials to audit ShotSpotter in its 2023 policy brief.

“The City of Savannah and Savannah Police Department should conduct an independent audit of ShotSpotter data collected up to date and continue an annual audit on a yearly basis,” the report said. “Based on what the historic data shows and the setting of clear evaluation metrics, the City should then make a decision on whether or not the technology best serves the public and is an effective, accurate tool in combating gun violence.” 

SPD has said its biggest reason for having ShotSpotter is getting police to the scenes of shootings faster and subsequently increasing the chances of saving lives and stopping shootings. There is not enough data kept on how or whether ShotSpotter is making the difference. 

The department has acknowledged the shortcomings of its current data tracking and pledged to track effectiveness data when its new reporting software is up and running.

Update on prison suit

In last week’s Undercurrent, we wrote about the case of a transgender woman previously housed in a Savannah-area prison who sued the Georgia Department of Corrections and was set to go to trial.

While the court began seating a jury last week, the woman, Ashley Diamond, decided to forgo the trial due to mental health concerns, according to her legal team. Court records show the case was dismissed last Friday.

Read the statement from Diamond’s legal team for why she dropped out.

Image from the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles of a prisoner Credit: Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles

Drop in parole releases

The five-member state board in charge of evaluating and releasing Georgia prisoners has released the fewest amount of prisoners on parole in the last five years.

The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles released 6,245 people on parole in fiscal year 2022, a drop by 27% from the previous year and by 40% from 2020, according to its latest annual report.

The body is appointed by the governor — a recent addition being former district attorney for Chatham County, Meg Heap. The board has sweeping powers to grant release from prison, give official forgiveness for crimes (pardons), and re-instate privileges like firearm and voting rights to prisoners. It’s an independent agency and not subject to much oversight.

Steve Hayes, a spokesperson for the agency, says the reasons for the drop include:

  • Criminal justice reforms instituted under former Gov. Nathan Deal have resulted in more low-level offenders (read: people likely to get paroled) to be diverted to programs and accountability courts instead of prison.
  • The makeup of Georgia prisons have changed to more people there for violent crimes, he said, which require longer sentences before being eligible for parole. Therefore, there are less people becoming eligible who can be considered by the parole board.

Meanwhile, admissions into Georgia prisons increased by half between fiscal years 2021 and 2022, from around 10,000 to 15,000. This past year’s number remained consistent with 2020 and was a slight drop from 2019, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Have questions, comments, or story ideas? Shoot me an email at jakeshore.thecurrent@gmail.com. Have a good rest of your week.

It’s official: Georgians can now carry gun without showing permit for it

Kemp also signed legislation Tuesday authorizing out-of-state residents who are licensed to carry firearms in their home state to carry in Georgia.

Continue reading…

Savannah spends $489K on ShotSpotter but doesn’t keep data on effectiveness

Savannah Police Department doesn’t keep statistics on effectiveness of ShotSpotter gunshot detection program in leading to evidence, stops, or arrests; months after city council approved expansion to more districts.

Continue reading…

Justice Department investigates Georgia prisons over inmate deaths, LGBT attacks

Department of Justice probe will look at a correctional system where murders and suicides have spiked during the pandemic and examine allegations that staff and inmates repeatedly physically and sexually abuse LGBT inmates.

Continue reading…

Ashley Diamond won a legal victory to protect incarcerated trans people in 2016. Now, she’s suing again.

Ashley Diamond currently incarcerated at Coastal State Prison near Savannah says she’s faced rampant sexual assault and denied gender affirming health care while under charge of Georgia Department of Corrections.

Continue reading…

Chatham County D.A. Vote Infused by Emotions Around Race, Law and Order

Divisive rhetoric, national money seeps into Chatham district attorney race as former colleagues square off

Continue reading…

Support non-partisan, 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...