SAVANNAH, GA (WSAV-TV) Gun violence around Savannah has affected countless city residents and significantly young people. That’s why Savannah-Chatham Metro police are reaching out to teenagers in schools.
“We need to listen to you more, this is a listening tour to have what I say is a dialogue,” says SCCPSS Police chief Terry Enoch to a room of 20 or more Beach High School students.
That dialogue is something many police and Savannah teens feel is long overdue. Metro officials and campus police sat down with Beach High students on how they can work together.
“When that personal relationship is made it changes everything. It’s the difference in night and day,” says SCMPD juvenile investigator Corporal Gregory Sublett.
In its current state, relations with police and Savannah’s younger generation is tense. The discussion started with Cpl. Sublett asking how many teens say they’ve had a good experience with police. A majority in the room say they have bad perceptions and experiences with Metro officers.
“I really feel like they should take more interest or passion in what they do in the community rather than just trying to get their job done or trying to get a paycheck,” says senior Trey Jackson.
It’s a feeling that Cpl. Sublett and police officials are expecting. Negative perceptions of police locally mirror a national problem that Metro officers who work with teens like Cpl. Sublett want to fix.
“If I never allow you to give me your side of it then it’s like I’m shutting you off, but if I allow you to communicate with me ‘these are my issues’ then those issues get worked, just because they’re young doesn’t mean they lack opinion,” says the eight year police veteran.
The forum also gave officers a chance to show students how officers look at teens, saying in most cases many are defiant. They also spoke out about the do’s and don’ts when talking to police.
“It’s not about snitching, or telling on anybody it’s about bettering your community,” says the corporal.
With gun violence taking the lives and affecting those of dozens of teens and kids in Savannah, students feel the conversation needs to start and to continue.
“Really talk to us more and find out what’s going on in the community because a lot of violence happens on social media. they can come to us or take a look at what’s going on there to have an idea of what’s going on around the community,” says Jackson.
Metro plans to host six to seven more of these forums with students from elementary to high school ages.