SAVANNAH, GA (August 7, 2012) A concentrated 11-month effort by Downtown Precinct officers to stem crime in its most active area has produced decreases of almost 39 percent while effectively increasing the percentage of calls for service.
Capt. Mike Wilkins, commander of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department’s Downtown Precinct who directed the operation to address crime and build relationships in the Yamacraw Village area, sees the two going hand-in-hand.
“The fact that reported crimes fell 39 percent while the number of calls from the public seeking police intervention fell only 1.7 percent shows we not only decreased criminal activity, but residents there are more comfortable calling police for help,” he said.
Wilkins and his staff pulled together the plan to reshape the area west of MLK Boulevard, south of West Bay, north of Oglethorpe Avenue and east of Canal Street when an analysis showed crimes in the Downtown Precinct were plummeting for the fourth consecutive year but rising in Yamacraw.
They announced a high visibility combination of intensified patrols, assigned officers full-time to the public Housing Enforcement Unit to work with members of the neighborhood and the Savannah Housing Authority, and worked to re-establish a neighborhood watch.
Police also attended Housing Authority meetings, conferred with managers and tenants, placed drug check point and neighborhood watch signs, inspected vacant apartments to prevent others from occupying them, towed abandoned vehicles and adjusted hours to address criminal activities.
Reports showed decreases in aggravated assaults, robberies, burglaries, auto thefts and “other” thefts, while thefts from autos and thefts from yards and buildings are holding even with 2011. That has helped Wilkins and his precinct decrease crime another 13 percent from 2011 so far this year.
Wilkins is equally proud of the calls for service which stayed essentially flat to 2011, despite the substantial drop in crimes.
“People need to feel safe in their own neighborhoods and they have to respect the police to do that,” Wilkins said. “If not, they are less inclined to call police, serve as witnesses, and provide the assistance needed to solve crimes. Most of the people in this area are law abiding citizens who can almost feel captive in their own homes. The fact that they obviously feel more comfortable calling on us shows us we have made a difference, although we still have more to attain.”
Yamacraw is composed of housing authority apartment s. Its tenants include families and a large number of young residents with relatives and friends who visit. While many come to socialize, police have confirmed that many enter the area for less appropriate reasons, including the sale of drugs, thefts and robberies.
In the first seven months of the year 2011, 18 Part 1 crimes had been investigated in Yamacraw. Surprisingly, police determined 75 percent of the suspects in violent crimes and 53 percent of the victims did not live in the area.
This year, 11 Part One crimes were reported in the same time period, a 38.9% decrease.
The effort continues for Downtown Precinct officers: “We continue to strive to provide the same level of service in Yamacraw that we provide in all other areas,” Wilkins said. “Police presence is only part of it. Maintaining that close relationship with the community will make the area less attractive for illegal activity.
“We’ll keep doing the things that worked and look for new tactics to continue this improvement.”
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