The City of Savannah plans to hire a special prosecutor to handle federal crimes originating in Savannah, surely an unprecedented step the city is taking to try to address its runaway crime problem.
The city’s decision is interesting because the US Attorney’s Office is a branch of the Department of Justice, a federal agency. The Southern District of Georgia includes 43 counties from Augusta to the Florida line, through Waycross and up to Dublin.
With the recent vote and memorandum, City Attorney Bates Lovett will be responsible for hiring this special attorney. After his tenure, the prosecutor will work under the supervision of Lovett and the US Attorney’s Office, which currently reports to US Attorney David Estes.
The measure, pushed by Mayor Van Johnson, was passed during Thursday’s council meeting. “This creates an opportunity for us to be able to get some of those triggers off our streets,” Johnson told his elected counterparts. “We know that as soon as the Feds start talking, people will start talking.” Johnson also calls for accelerated sentencing and tougher sentences for violent offenders.
Alderman Kurtis Purtee supported Johnson’s idea. “It’s not something we’re going to evict ourselves from with the police,” noting that authorities are tired of seeing the same criminals over and over again. Purtee suggested that those opposed to spending $100,000 would be denying citizens “another tool in the toolbox.”
“If you pull the trigger, you’re an enemy of our city,” Johnson said. “How do we rate the work? How do we rate the work? You will see the falls. If it doesn’t work, we stop funding.”
Mayor Johnson asked for unanimous support for the initiative, but the vote was 6-3.