BALTIMORE. Chicago. Oakland, New Orleans. Camden. Fresno. Washington DC.
Cities commonly considered the most violent and gang-ravaged in the U.S., a few nearly synonymous with the word “crime.”
Little ol’ Savannah was on the same list.
The latest “Violence Reduction Initiative” of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Marshals—with help from local police and sheriff’s departments—just concluded in 12 of America’s most lethal cities, Savannah among them.
The cities are located in six regions identified as resisting the long national trend toward a decreasing crime rate.
“If you look at statistics over the last decade, violent crime and crime overall has decreased in this country,” said U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver. “But in these six areas, Savannah being one of them, violent crime has spiked.”
Which isn’t news to anyone here.
From Feb. 1-March 11, this Violence Reduction Initiative—Operation VR12 in law enforcement parlance—made 144 arrests in Savannah, clearing 177 violent crime warrants and taking 13 murder suspects off local streets (a couple of whom were on the lam for murders elsewhere).
How did VR12 define repeat offender? A fugitive wanted for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, armed robbery, aggravated assault, rape, sexual assault, or child molestation, with at least three prior warrants for violent crime such as assault, and charges like narcotics and weapons.
“This initiative targeted the most dangerous of the most dangerous element,” said Savannah/Chatham Police Chief Jack Lumpkin. “This effort goes after the worst of the worst. It’s one of the best values we have in fighting crime. These people are actually driving the violent crime rate.”
One example is Andre Rondal Daise, arrested for the shooting murder of Randy Hooks in his pickup truck near Reynolds and E. 40th St. this past Christmas Day.
Daise had previous arrests for assault, burglary, firearms, narcotics, and other charges. He was arrested on St. Helena Island, S.C., hiding out with friends.
Chief Lumpkin says the typical offender corralled averaged ten prior arrests!
Throughout the nation, Operation VR-12 netted 8,075 gang members, sex offenders and other violent criminals, including over 500 accused murderers. They recovered 17 children who’d been reported abducted and were missing.
(This focus on recidivist violent offenders is an interesting juxtaposition to other federal efforts to release nonviolent offenders currently serving sentences.)
The local impact will hopefully be obvious in terms of potential reduced crime. It will certainly have political ramifications.
In the 90 days since Mayor Eddie DeLoach took office, his opponents have frequently criticized him and us in the local media for no longer making an outcry about crime now that the election is over.
To be fair, Mayor DeLoach had nothing to do with VR-12. These tightly targeted efforts spearheaded at the federal level by DOJ and the Marshals began at the behest of former Attorney General Eric Holder.
Things probably would have happened the same if former Mayor Edna Jackson had been reelected. But politics is politics, and the result will benefit DeLoach.
Local law enforcement did have something to do with Operation Step Forward, however, a similar operation raising the stakes for criminals who use guns.
“In the old days, defense attorneys would automatically try to get any gun charges plea-bargained out,” says Sheriff Roy Harris (who lost in Tuesday’s runoff to John Wilcher).
“That is no longer on the table. If you’ve got a gun and you’ve committed violence or are a convicted felon, that gun charge will not disappear,” Harris says.
The catch is that VR-12 is now in the history books. While local police will continue to work with the U.S. Marshals as they have for many years, this particular operation is concluded.
The proof is in the pudding, and in this case we’ll find our proof in whether or not the legal system makes these charges stick.
Otherwise this all will have been a waste of time and taxpayer dollars, again.