– Thursday, August 30, 2023 –

Good morning. Local officials worked hard preparing for Hurricane Idalia’s gusty arrival to Georgia’s coast on Wednesday. Emergency management agencies in Chatham, Bryan, Glynn, Liberty and Camden counties kept citizens and local media apprised of the storm’s danger and precautions to take.

Flooding, downed trees, power outages, and fires followed in Idalia’s wake.

We’ll keep watching for the storm’s effects and so should you. But in the meantime, here are some public safety stories we’ve been covering this week. As always, questions, comments and story ideas can go to jakeshore.thecurrent@gmail.com.

Two years since former DA’s indictment

Brian Steel (left) and Jackie Johnson (right). Steel represents Johnson in a criminal case where she is accused of interfering in the investigation of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder. Steel’s work defending rapper Young Thug in Atlanta has caused major scheduling problems in the case against the former Brunswick district attorney. Credit: Steel Law Firm / Johnson campaign website

Saturday marks two years since the former Brunswick-area district attorney was indicted for allegedly covering for the killers of Ahmaud Arbery.

However, the case has made little progress. Both the attorney general’s office and the judge in charge of the trial say they are ready to proceed but no hearing or trial dates can be set because former DA Jackie Johnson’s defense lawyer has too many other commitments, a court official with knowledge of the situation told The Current. Her lawyer, Brian Steel, is tied up defending rapper Young Thug in a sprawling racketeering case in Fulton County.

Johnson has been out on a $10,000 recognizance bond since her arrest and same day release from jail on Sept. 8, 2021.

What has Johnson been up to? We’re not sure. But we checked with the Georgia Bar Association and found that her law license is still in good standing. An indictment for judicial misconduct is not considered grounds for disbarment or suspension. Only a conviction can lead to that.

Read more from our reporting on Johnson’s case.

Crime stats: What to know

Photo from a 2017 homicide investigated by Savannah police officers on West 45th Street. Credit: Savannah Police Department

Savannah is months away from citywide elections for mayoral and council positions. With crime as an enduring political topic, The Current has you covered to survive those kitchen table discussions and arm you with facts and statistics.

Our data reporter has updated our collection of Savannah Police Department’s reported crimes statistics, through Aug. 26, 2023.

Here are some insights your public safety reporter has found:

  • Murders at lower levels. The police department has investigated 11 homicides so far in 2023, compared to 23 homicides at the same time in 2022. However, reports from the Chatham County Police Department show more murders in the unincorporated parts of the county, potentially making up the difference. CCPD investigated seven murders so far in 2023, compared to three murders during the same period in 2022.
  • Reports of sexual assault are down slightly. Major caveat: sexual assaults are widely underreported to the police. Additionally, due to SPD’s not up-to-date records system, specific types of sexual assault crimes are not separated out. But in the two categories SPD does track, “Rape (Carnal)” and “Rape (Other Penetration)”, there are fewer reports so far in 2023 compared to 2022. Carnal is considered an older definition of rape, while other penetration was added in 2013 to consider other types of forced penetration as well.

One more thing: Hooray for speed cameras?

Speed cameras Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Speed cameras. Love ’em or hate ’em, new data is showing that its increased use is making some city streets safer.

That’s according to Route Fifty, which reported on how New York City’s 24/7 speed camera program has reduced road deaths in areas covered by cameras by 25%, while also decreasing the amount of tickets issued by 30%.

Previously, the city’s speed cameras only operated during daytime hours on weekdays. But after data showed more crashes happening off hours, state legislators gave the city permission to activate them all day and night, every day.

In Coastal Georgia: Effingham County, Savannah, Richmond Hill, Camden County and Bloomingdale are listed by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as “speed camera communities”.

Speed cameras raise valid questions about money, as school-zone speed cameras garnered more than half-a-million dollars in fines to the Savannah Police Department in less than a year, the Savannah Morning News reported. At least two Savannah lawmakers supported legislation earlier this year to add more regulations and clarity as to when school zone speed cameras could be operating, after receiving complaints of after-hour ticketing.

Jackie Johnson prosecution turns two years old amid delays caused by her lawyer

Two years after a former Brunswick-area district attorney was indicted for alleged meddling in the Ahmaud Arbery investigation, delays mar her case. Some point to Jackie Johnson’s own lawyer, who is tied up in another case in Atlanta.

Continue reading…

Indicted Brunswick DA, Arbery killer allegedly in contact 16 times

Georgia prosecutors reveal new evidence asserting collusion between former DA Jackie Johnson, one of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers and other officials to classify Arbery’s death as a justified killing not a homicide.

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Data dive: How Savannah measures crime

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.

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Savannah requests $23M grant in response to rising car crash deaths, injuries

Data shows car crashes in Savannah resulting in death and serious injury for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians grew again in 2022 after record high reached in 2021.

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Savannah surpasses other police departments in solving murders. Why?

The snapshot of successful detective work, homicide clearance rates, are a mark of pride for the Savannah Police Department that has struggled in recent years with morale inside the force and its ability to foster community good will. While a high statistic, some experts and advocates say it doesn’t tell the whole story […]

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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...