SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Cassandra Reid returned to her home Saturday afternoon to find a chaotic scene at the end of her street.
A driver, who was chased by police, hit a pole, spun off the road and into a construction pole, she said. It left Cassandra and her neighbors without power.
“Our concern is what’s the protocol for a high-speed police chase inside the city limits and especially in residential neighborhoods,” she said.
Cassandra has lived in her neighborhood near Montgomery and W. Anderson Street for 10 years and said she’s used to seeing chases on the surrounding streets.
“It’s woken us up at night with the multiple police cars and you can hear the engines of the cars,” she said. “Sitting on the porch just seeing it happening. I mean, it’s something like I’ve said we’ve seen multiple, multiple times.”
“It’s getting to a point now where someone has to do something or someone’s going to get seriously hurt, or killed again.”
Nationwide, one person is killed every day from crashes involving a driver fleeing police, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
One-third of those killed are innocent bystanders, the data shows.
In 2016, a 69-year-old woman was killed in a crash by a convicted felon fleeing police. It promoted the Savannah Police Department to modify its pursuit policy.
“The SPD recognizes and respects the value of human life,” the policy reads. “The vehicle pursuit of an offender is often necessary to fulfill the law enforcement mission.”
SPD’s policy was first adopted in 2004 and has been revised five times since, most recently in 2018. It currently instructs officers to only pursue a vehicle if they have reasonable grounds to believe the driver has committed or is attempting to commit a felony, or when the need to immediately stop them outweighs the danger created by the pursuit.
But residents like Cassandra said they want police to find a middle ground to keep other drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists on the road safe.
“I have grandchildren in this particular neighborhood,” Cassandra said. “We’re vigilant with them, hypervigilant when it comes to being outside. We don’t even let them outside by themselves because you never know what’s going to happen. You know, you never know if there’s going to be an accident or another chase where a car’s going to run up the sidewalk like this one did.”
Chatham County is among the three counties where the majority of pursuits happen in Georgia, according to Georgia State Patrol.
GSP’s pursuit policy differs from SPD’s, giving officers discretion in choosing whether or not to initiate a chase.