Local pastors get together, organize to fight Savannah crime

The Savannah Alliance of Pastors held a press conference Tuesday morning to take a stand against gun violence. (Brittini Ray/ Savannah Morning News)

Some local pastors say they are fed up with the city’s longstanding history of violent crimes and are taking a stand against the “senseless murders” in Savannah.

 

Comprised of more than 30 religious leaders, the Savannah Alliance of Pastors is a “united group of pastors who live and lead in the community.” The organization held a press conference Tuesday to make a public denouncement of crime in Savannah.

“That’s why this gathering is so special,” said Da’Henri Thurmond Sr. of the Savannah Alliance of Pastors. “This is not about denomination. It’s about us coming together for this problem…. As the Savannah Alliance of Pastors, we have been called by God to love and to lead. Our gathering this morning is in response to both those commandants of our God. As more than 30 pastors across various denominational and faith traditions, we represent more than 10,000 residents of this community. We are here this morning to express our love for our city and our objective is to stand against gun violence and murder in this wonderful place we call home.”

So far this year, Savannah-Chatham police have investigated 33 homicides. This time last year, metro had investigated 45 homicides. The two most recent shootings included a 15-year-old boy who was killed outside a southside McDonald’s and a 62-year-old man killed outside a southside laundromat.

Since the summer of 2015, Savannah has seen an increase in violent crime, especially gun crimes.

There were 53 homicides in 2015, the bloodiest year for Savannah in 25 years. The city’s highest homicide tally came in 1991, when infamous crack-cocaine dealer Ricky Jivens and his gang contributed heavily to the record 60 slayings.

Police recorded 50 homicides in 2016, and total violent crime was up by 1 percent.

The press conference kicked off by reading the names of the 33 Savannahians “who could not join the press conference,” followed by a moment of silence for those homicide victims.

“The fact of the matter is that it’s sobering to sit down and hear the names of the people who could not be here with us today,” said Alderman Van Johnson, who attended Tuesday’s press conference. “When you look at those names, you look at their families that are suffering. You look at the perpetrator’s family who is suffering as well. And that’s a community in crisis.”

Thurmond said the organization was more than willing to work with city leaders and law enforcement to combat the city’s crime issues.

“On this day, we stand united in purpose, committed in heart and open in mind to seeking solutions to this crisis that affects every segment of our community,” he said. “We, as pastors leading congregations, desire to work with our government, business community and various organizations to eradicate the use of guns as a solution to our issue. We realize this is a multi-faceted problem that requires a layered and diverse solution.”

Community members and other religious leaders are encouraged to attend the organization’s next meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Coastal Transitional Center. Mayor Eddie DeLoach and Mayor Pro Tem Carol Bell also attended the event.

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