SAVANNAH, GA (August 22, 2014): A Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department initiative to address a summer increase in shootings and other violent crimes has led to more than 30 arrests and the seizure of illegal drugs.
The Quick Reaction Force (QRF) was initiated by Maj. Richard Zapal, commander of the north division of Metro Patrol. The team principally concentrates in the Central Precinct where the majority of shootings have taken place, but can be assigned immediately anywhere in the jurisdiction.
By Wednesday, its officers had completed 18 felony arrests, 11 misdemeanor arrests and three arrests on outstanding warrants. In addition, they had issued a city ordinance citation, 60 traffic charges, seized three handguns and collected three grams of cocaine and 201 grams of Marijuana. They also had conducted 121 field interviews.
In one instance, undercover officers arrested four males behind the Madison Apartments in the Feiler Park neighborhood. One of the suspects was donning a mask and another was preparing a handgun. One of the arrestees was out on bail after being arrested in connection with a fatal shooting in the past two years.
“Our most successful method of reducing crime is to take the criminal off the streets before the crime is committed … we take the fight to them instead of reacting,” Zapal said. “That takes a lot of dedicated resources that very few departments can sustain for any long period of time. So we enable existing officers to work overtime before or after their shifts to give us the additional manpower we need. It has been very successful.”
The initiative involves two shifts of a sergeant with three officers working from 7-10:30 p.m. and again from 10:30 p.m. until 3:30 a.m., bolstering regular patrols under the watch commander. It allowed the watch commander to assign heavy patrols in areas where multiple crimes had been reported.
Watch commanders are free to direct the extra personnel and equipment immediately to locations where they felt they could best suppress violent crime and retaliatory crimes.
“We deal with multiple issues,” Zapal said. “Crimes were ranging from drug deals gone bad, to retaliations for other crimes to domestic situations. We can’t stop everything. But we can eliminate a lot of crimes by arresting people we know are prone to such issues – often on warrants that already are outstanding – before additional crimes are committed. This gives us the resources to do that. It’s too taxing on both personnel and city budgets to continue long-term. But we will continue it as long as we can.”
Chief Julie Tolbert credited the initiative with helping to stem the number of shootings.
“Neither crime nor the police work to address it are static,” she said. “Criminal activity moves and changes and we must do so as well. The Quick Reaction Force is one of many initiatives our command staff and officers have begun to address the constantly changing issues we face in this community. It is making a difference.”