'Unlike the article implied, the HSMC is not a division, department or entity of the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC). The HSMC holds meetings in the MPC’s conference room and is staffed by MPC staff but it is a Commission created by, appointed by and reports to City Council.'
I know there has been a huge outcry from some members of our community about the recent shooting of a 19-year-old in Orleans Square. I also know that among the many allegations levied was that the mayor and city council are not concerned or are not doing anything about the issue of public safety in this community. This can not be further from the truth.
While many in the greater Savannah community are outraged now, to be honest with you, I have been outraged. I have been outraged when anyone with my city in general and my district in particular has been victimized by crime.
I was outraged when my friend, Randy Stevens was gunned down in front of his home on Duvall Street in 2002. I was outraged when Sean Abraham was killed while working at Churchs Chicken on Bay Street in 2004.
I was outraged when Mrs. Peloquin was killed on Montgomery Cross Road in April 2004. I was outraged when Shante Cooper was gunned down on Harden and West 38th Street on April 1 of this year. I was outraged when the young lady was raped and robbed in Tatumville Park in April.
I was outraged when two men were killed in June and four in July. I was outraged when Mrs. Marino was assaulted earlier this year. I was outraged when Mr. Grant was found in the trunk of his car on the eastside in August. I was outraged when my co-worker was the victim of a home invasion on September that cost him the use of his eye.
I was outraged when Mr. Gleason was killed in Ardsley Park. I am outraged that the Wesley Community Centers has been victimized four times in the past two weeks and Im outraged that Jennifer Ross was shot on Orleans Square.
I am outraged every time I learn from my residents that some ones home or vehicle is broken into or vandalized, or someone is assaulted or abused.
As an alderman of the City of Savannah, I accept responsibility for what has occurred, because ultimately, you placed us in office to provide the policy direction and resources to deal with crime. I do not think that the mayor or any council member will shirk responsibility for what has occurred.
As you know, your mayor and council have been working not only to identify criminals and the reasons for crime. We have attended your neighborhood and community meetings, marched with ministers, created and participated in task forces dealing specifically with crime, in an effort to not only decrease crime, but to attack the conditions under which crime grows.
I am further concerned that many are working and operating under some false assumptions. Let me share a few:
1) Savannah is not New York. I am a New Yorker, by birth and my father is a former New York Police and Corrections Officer. While Mayor Giuliani did an impressive job in helping to reduce crime, Savannah operates under a different form of government. We have a professional city manager that is hired by council that oversees the entire police function. We have given our police department everything they have said they needed to address the crime issue in our community. I can tell you that while violent crimes statistically have gone down in New York City, there has been a sharp increase in the assault and murder of New York City police officers.
2) We have a Metropolitan Police Department. This department is the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department with responsibilities to both the Savannah City Council and the Chatham County Commission.
3) Crime is a people problem. The First District district has fought with persistent crime for years and while many people shook their heads and said this is horrible, there was not an overwhelming response from the other parts of the city. In the First District, you will find three census tracts where people live below the poverty line. You will also find uneducated or undereducated people that are unable to sustain themselves with suitable employment. It is a community-wide problem that will take a community-wide solution. We have been asking for other people to get involved, but they wouldnt.
No excuses, these are just the facts.
I am encouraged by the outrage that is being expressed in the community, but I remind you that the call was issued by our mayor and council almost two years ago. We have called, beckoned and pleaded with the community to get involved and become more proactive in dealing with the crime issue.
Many came and participated, but many more did not. Perhaps they were too busy, too involved with other pursuits or figured that it just did not affect them. We have been actively working since that time. I just hate it that a young girl was victimized in order for some people to realize that they need to be actively involved. It is just my hope that all of this energy is focused on solutions rather than blame, and collaboration rather than victimization.
We continue to ask you and your friends to bring your ideas, time and talents. Weve been waiting for you. Welcome to the team. We need your support and we cannot do it without you.
Van R. Johnson II
Alderman, District 1
OPEN LETTER TO DAVE SIMONS
Mr. Simons, I am a perennial tourist to your area and currently enjoying the splendid culture of your wonderful city. However, I am very offended by your response to the recent and very unfortunate shooting of Jennifer Ross as quoted in the Savannah Morning News Dec. 28.
I take issue with your remark that Crime now has a face for many of us who only looked at crime as a tourist thing or a drug deal gone bad.
I can assure you that crime has always had a face regardless of the prominence of the victim. What I find so appalling is that a man of your current position and stature in life would show such little regard for any who may fall outside of your social circle, i.e. your remark It's not going to generate the same response when you have a couple of crack heads running around shooting each other.
Remarks such as these are not only heartless, but also biased to the point of inferring that a life outside a certain social arena is not worth as much. All life is sacred and precious, and should be treated accordingly.
The formation of the Save Our Savannah group is a positive sign which if done in a proper and judicious manner will benefit Savannah. I applaud Mr. Martin Sullivan in his efforts to bring in people of clout to help victims of crime who do not have influence. This is proper and positive action.
When someone is sick, a doctor looks to find the cause of the illness and then treats it accordingly. It is much the same with society; one has to look for the cause and then treat it. What it will take to heal this sickness is action from people such as you who have and hold prominent positions in life. It will take people who will look at other people for what they are, human beings.
My hopes and prayers are with Ms. Ross family, and at no point does this letter intend to dismiss the criminal actions of those responsible for this tragic shooting. I fully advocate the apprehension and prosecution of those responsible for this callous act as well as any other acts of violence against any citizen regardless of their stature in life.
My heart goes out to the family of this young lady and I hope and pray that they will be able to find peace. For peace is something we should all seek, for hate only divides and destroys, whereas love and understanding conquers all.