CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) — A violence and gang commission is pledging to invest resources to reduce crime among teens in Chatham County. The Chatham County Gang Prevention and Intervention Commission held a meeting Monday morning on Zoom and heard from police departments detailing the recent uptick in teen crime.
“You’re not a snitch by opening your mouth, there are lives that are being lost,” said Rep. Carl Gilliard (D-Ga.), who led the meeting. “We’re not going to fear, we’re going to be able to take a stand because we want to live. We want quality of life.”
The commission discussed a few programs to curb gun violence among teens, including its “Show Us Your Guns” program. The program is aimed at educating teens about gun violence and convincing them they don’t need to carry guns for their protection.
Christian Stolfe, Attorney at Chatham County District Attorneys Office, says he’s seeing increased gun violence from children between the ages of 12 and 14. He said the overall teen crime rate is in line with previous years but he has seen an increase over the past month.
“Over the last month, there has absolutely, it is undisputed, that there has been an uptick in youth violence with guns and unfortunately not just having the guns, but using them,” Stolfe says. “It’s startling, to be honest with you. It’s something that we need to look at and be proactive.”
Stolfe said he’s specifically spoken with the Savannah Police Department and Garden City Police Department about the teen crime rises in those two cities.
Commission members addressed last week’s shooting in Savannah that left a 14-year-old dead. Rep. Carl Gilliard says everyone in the community plays a role in stopping crimes like that from happening again.
“We’ve got to do more to provide information and if we see something, we need to say something,” Gilliard said. “It’s our kids, it’s our community and now more than ever with the proliferation of guns, guns do not die but people do.”
The commission also pledged to make better connections within communities and bring resources to them.
“It shouldn’t be that when something happens now you get the resources,” says Beverlee Trotter, director of Savannah Youth Inc. “Putting the information on the ground so that young people have it before they get in trouble. That’s what intervention and prevention is for.”
Trotter said the commission should focus on its method of communication with young people as well. She said she wants to see officers and first responders going into barbershops and places where young people frequent.
Another outreach program returning to basketball courts in Chatham County is Midnight Basketball. National Chairman of the program, Dr. Philip Cooper, says the organization hits neighborhood courts to hoop and instill character traits into the kids.
Cooper said volunteers also mentor the kids, help them get into higher education and find jobs. The community and volunteers meet on the courts at 10 p.m. and hoop until 2 a.m. The program first got its legs in Chatham County during the ’90s when crime rates were high.
The commission’s next meeting will be held within the next couple of weeks.