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One law enforcement officer’s advice on crime
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Editor, I am a Savannah native now living and working in Virginia Beach due to my husband’s service in the Navy. I am currently a Probation and Parole Officer, specializing in investigations, fugitive hunting, and gangs (or the watered-down name of “security threat groups”). I attended a Street Gang Training at Armstrong Atlantic State University in June of last year. This training was hosted by the Institute of Police Technology and Management, out of Jacksonville. I was already quite educated in gang activity and was constantly dumbfounded upon my visits home at the rising rate of gang activity in Savannah (kids in certain clothing, graffiti, etc.) and the lack of police/judge/court/law enforcement involvement in these activities. I think if everyone stands back and takes a look at Savannah’s history, our city has constantly been plagued by leaders who choose to turn their backs on the crime rate in Savannah. Even while I was in high school, Savannah had the highest per capita crime rate in the state. That means that per the number of people in Savannah and the number of crimes committed, our crime rate was higher than even a city like Atlanta! There was nothing being done about the crime problem in our lovely city at that time! The numbers of property crimes, violent crimes, and crimes related to drugs and alcohol have continually escalated over the years. Only now that these types of crimes are reaching further into our historical district, places such as the squares, the nicer areas of River Street, Ardsley Park, and some of the gated communities suffering from home and car burglaries are the upper-echelon of Savannah getting involved? I served as a Probation Officer in Savannah for three years. It was amazing to me the numbers of people placed on probation supervision for misdemeanor offenses who constantly recidivated, receiving new charges (sometimes the same types of charges, sometimes new types of charges) who go before our judges and then receive suspended sentences, charges that are dismissed or “Nolle Prossed” (meaning the offense is still there, not convicted, but it can be brought up at a later time if the state so chooses). In Savannah, our judges are elected officials! Yet, year after year, the citizens of Savannah re-elect the same mayor, the same judges, the same aldermen/women, the same representatives, and the same senators. Now people are complaining? So, who here really is to blame? Isn’t it the citizens of Savannah for not holding elected officials to task for the constantly rising crime rate this city has suffered? At some point, the citizens of Savannah are going to have to stand up and take responsibility for their city and do something about these problems in Savannah. If people are not willing to do this, then stop complaining, ride the train, and get taken over the thugs in the city. Oh, let me fair-warn you… it isn’t just the kids in Hitch Village or Yamacraw or Fellwood Homes or the 37th Street areas that you have to worry about. The ones you really need to worry about are the punks that come from the more affluent families that are what we in the business refer to “wanna-be’s” or “gonna-be’s”, whose Momma’s and Daddy’s have all the money they need to keep their precious little angels out of the courts and out of the jails. They are using high-dollar drugs: cocaine, ecstasy, meth, LSD (which is on the rise), huffing, and getting high on cold medications. They steal from their parents first, which of course goes unnoticed, then they move to stealing from us -- but, of course, they can get away w/it because of their parents’ social status. Think I’m kidding? Take a good look around you. By no means am I saying those kids from the wrong side of the tracks are innocent, but quite frequently, the focus is put on them, while the rich kids are getting away with murder. Go on-line. Learn about gangs and street thugs, and about crime. Do some research. Educate your self. Most importantly, be cognizant of what’s going on around you. Start to hold Savannah’s elected officials accountable for their lack of action in saving our beautiful city. Just some friendly advice from a law enforcement officer. Shannon S. West Adult Probation & Parole District 23