SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – City council on Thursday approved a program aimed at addressing “nighttime-related issues” in Savannah.
The Office of Special Events, Film and Tourism recommended the council approve $80,000 in order to develop a night management program with the Responsible Hospitality Institute.
The nonprofit — which is currently working with St. Augustine, Florida — is tasked with helping pinpoint issues regarding public safety in the Hostess City and strategize solutions, according to the proposal.
This comes after several weekend shootings and repeated calls from city leaders for change.
“We are a 24-hour city,” Mayor Van Johnson said Tuesday. “Our city is different at night and on weekends than it is during the day, and I think we have to recognize that.”
Instances of aggravated assault with a weapon are five times higher than this time last year, according to data from the Savannah Police Department.
“Before it was in certain areas where you could probably expect crime was happening and now it’s becoming more sporadic,” District 2 Alderman Detric Leggett said. “It’s popping up in different places that you probably wouldn’t think shootings are happening.”
Some members of city council said they’ve done enough talking about gun violence and it’s time to take action.
“You can’t just be concerned, you have to do something about it,” said District 3 Alderwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan. “We’ve got this big wheel and all of us are causing the wheel and if you’re so upset about it, then walk your talk and do all that you can.”
City officials said another important solution is creating programs targeting youth to help keep them from getting involved in crime.
Tourism leaders in Savannah said the nightlife scene is a big part of the Savannah experience, but think the initiative would be a good thing.
“This is not the same city that it was five or 10 or 20 years ago,” said Joseph Marinelli, president of Visit Savannah. “As our city and our destination evolves, we have to look at new ways to manage everything that we do.”
Marinelli said despite the uptick in crime, there’s no evidence to suggest it’s having an impact on visitor numbers. But it’s something he and other industry leaders are concerned about.