Federal and Local Prosecutors, Savannah-Chatham Metro Police and Chatham County Sheriff’s, united as one with one message, either straighten up or we will lock you up.
The next step in the End Gun Violence project came last night, with a “call in”, criminals on parole or probation, all in one room together.
They listened to victims families, social services, to city leaders and law enforcement, all together to say the rules of engagement have now changed.
“The message simply was do not kill anyone. If you do there will be swift and certain consequences,” said Dr Maxine Bryant, End Gun Violence Project Coordinator.
“This is not just a one time deal. Its a change, its an initiative,” said Meg Heap, Chatham County District Attorney. “So you have an option. Walk away, or we’ll put you away.”
“They were not singled out as individuals but as messengers,” explained SCMPD Chief Jack Lumpkin. “We brought them there to deliver messages to a variety of people in this community.”
“That’s how this is going to work. If you are involved in a shooting or a homicide we aren’t just going to look at you. we are going to look at who you are associated with and who they are associated with,” said SCMPD Detective Alan Sammons.
“That means we catch you as a felon with a gun, you will be arrested,” continues Sammons. “If you are caught with misdemeanor weed, you will be arrested. its no longer if something happens we will investigate this case and just going after the shooter. Yes we are going after the shooter, now we are going after your friends, maybe your family, maybe your friends friends. The game is up.”
“If you have one bullet and you are a convicted felon that’s also a violation of federal law,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney James Durham. “If you are selling drugs on the side of the street – that’s a federal violation as well. And if you have a gun and you are selling drugs on the side of the street in addition to what you are getting for the drug violation you can tack on another 60 months to that sentence.”
“The message is walk away, stop the violence, dont shoot anybody, or know that we know who you are and we now know who you are associated with,” said a defiant Meg Heap. “And we are going to use everything in our power to take you off the streets. because we need the violence to stop”
“We are all here together, we have a vested interest in this town,” explained Chatham County Sheriff Roy Harris. “Its our community. We thrive on tourists here and we have to do what we can to stop this.”
“I think a lot of criminals on our street that think they are getting away with something and they found out last night we know where you are, we know who your girlfriends are, where you hang out, where your mother is, where she lives,” said Michael Owens/President/CEO of Savannah’s Tourism and Leadership Council, who was at Tuesday night’s call in. “We know everything about you and if you screw up from this moment on, we are coming to get you, we’re coming to get everybody you are associated with and we are going to throw the book at you.”
“Several of them i talked to at length and said I heard you,” said Dr. Bryant. “Another person said i’m not involved but my sister is behind bars now and im going to tell her. another young man went back and said im going to tell them.”
“I walked away with some hope for our future,’ said Owens. “Its the first time in a long time that ive seen something tangible not just words and rhetoric.”
This was the first of these “call ins” but probably not the last.
If you were a Parolee or on Probation invited to the meeting and didn’t show, Prosecutors say you are breaking the law, and will be back in front of a judge.
For the community, they stressed patience. You may not see a change today or tomorrow, but in the long run they say this will make a difference for the safety of everyone in Savannah.