‘It’s a Chatham County problem:’ County police chief reflects on increase in violent crime

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Violent crime in Chatham County is up by more than 40% compared to July 2020, according to data from the county police department.

According to the July 2021 report, violent crimes have increased by 43.6% since mid-2020. Additionally, property crimes have increased by 13.4%. The most frequent crimes reported are aggravated assault with a weapon and auto theft.

Jeffrey Hadley, Chief of the Chatham County Police Department, said part of the reason for the uptick is the fact that there is no longer a stay-at-home order.

“Crime is up all over the country,” Hadley said. “You always compare one year to the next. 2020 was a little bit on the lower side, particularly on some crimes, because people were at home, they weren’t out, they weren’t travelling, they weren’t in public spaces and things of that nature.”

The Chatham County Police Department is also seeing an increase in weapon theft from vehicles. Chief Hadley estimates the department has received up to 37 reports in the first half of 2021.

The increase in crime is a county-wide problem. The city of Savannah also reported an increase in crime, specifically aggravated assaults involving weapons.

“Law enforcement gets entirely too much credit when crime goes down and we get entirely too much blame when it goes when it goes up,” Hadley said. “There’s a lot of factors that go into rising crime. I think we have our role to play and I think that we have to do it professionally, and effectively, and be committed to doing everything that we can do with the tools that we have.”

To protect yourself from becoming a victim of crime, Chief Hadley recommends locking your doors and staying aware of when situations have the potential to get out of hand.

“There’s some red flags that happen before it escalates to an aggravated assault,” Hadley said. “Whether it be angry outbursts, people punching walls, threatening behavior things of that nature. You have to remove – and I know how difficult it is – remove yourself from that situation.”

For Hadley, there is not a singular solution to solving the increase in crime. He said prevention is a community effort involving residents, elected officials and social services.

“We need those folks that trust us, that believe in us and are willing to provide us information when need be if a crime occurs in their neighborhood or around their business,” Hadley said. “I think that’s our best weapon in terms of reducing crime.”

The Chatham County Police Department has met with the Savannah Police Department and the District Attorney’s office to develop a strategy to combat the increase in crime, according to Chief Hadley.

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