SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — After a weekend of shootings in Savannah that left five people injured, Mayor Van Johnson is taking aim at gun violence.
“You get tired of this week after week, and although we’re reminded there are so many cities that have it way worse, for us, this hits home,” Johnson said.
The mayor said a heavier police presence won’t solve gun violence in the city. Instead, he’s calling on state lawmakers to push for stricter gun laws and harsher penalties for violent crime.
“It makes no sense, that people who commit violent crime could be back on the streets,” Johnson said.
“It comes down again to the same elements,” he continued. “A gun. Secondly, a gun in the hands of someone who should not have it. And then three, a horrible, tragic and sometimes deadly decision.”
Johnson asked residents to lock their cars and secure their guns because many of the guns used in crimes around the city are stolen.
When asked what the city will do to fight gun violence, Johnson said he visits each scene, has police patrol neighborhoods and continues to bring awareness to it. He also said he’s hoping the new city manager will bring forward a budget with increased funds for technology to fight crime, such as using cameras and AI.
Johnson has repeatedly said police can only do so much to address gun violence after it happens, instead stressing that preventative measures and personal responsibility are vital. He also mentioned the Savannah Police Department’s high percentage of clearing crimes.
“If you do a crime here, we’re probably going to catch you, but that doesn’t stop the fact that it happened.”
One of the recent shootings happened near City Market, a heavily-visited spot by both tourists and locals. Another happened last week at a sports complex with children present. Johnson is calling on the community to come together and support each other.
“In a civilized community, we cannot let violence win,” he said. “We cannot let hate win. And so I trust that we will continue to engage in all of the safety protocols we can to keep people safe. But I think on the other end of it, it’s also a personal responsibility of all of us to ensure that people are safe.”
The Chatham County Gang Prevention and Intervention Commission also recently launched an initiative to infiltrate neighborhoods in Savannah and prevent teenagers from committing crimes. The 912 Rescue Mission was commissioned by Rep. Carl Gilliard (D).
It’s described as a mobile town hall for communities, holding events in parks, barbershops and beauty salons and other areas. The goal is to provide resources for mental health, help them get jobs and pursue education.