The Savannah police and a question of priorities

I went to a friend’s 30th birthday party Saturday night. It was a grand time, at least until the police arrived and shut it down.

I was inside the house when someone outside shot off some really, really loud fireworks — I knew immediately that the police would come, especially given the late hour. It was a dumb move.

I don’t really know enough about the law or the details to make any judgment about whether one of the policeman had the right to come into the house, although I’m pretty sure the officer stepped over the line when I heard him threaten to arrest anyone who didn’t leave the premises. After all, this was a bunch of legal-age 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings.

And I’m not going to complain about the fact that at least three units responded to the call. After all, the police never know what they’re getting themselves into — having plenty of backup for an incident late on a Saturday night is certainly not a bad idea.

But why did multiple units have to spend about an hour (I didn’t check the time, but that seems about right) on the scene, long after it was obvious that the situation was under control? That this was hardly a threatening group?

I heard it over and over from other guests: Why are they putting so much manpower into this? In this town?

And that’s a good question. Last night (Sunday), there was another shooting in the East Victorian Neighborhood near Park Avenue and Lincoln. A friend in the immediate area tells me that there have been at least five shootings around there in recent months, although this was the first that resulted in death.

Earlier this summer, after I had trapped a troublesome opossum and was driving him to the woods outside of town (long story), I turned down Jefferson Street a few blocks from my house and encountered about a dozen people on the street, including obvious drug dealers and prostitutes. This was at 5:20 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. I generally avoid Jefferson because of the omnipresence of criminal activity, but I also turned onto it off Victory one Sunday afternoon a few months ago and had a prostitute literally walk into the street in front of my moving van, waving her arm to try to flag me down.

Back to Saturday night: why have multiple units responding for so long to a call about a loud party when everyone knows that some nearby corridors have criminal activity on the street pretty much round the clock?

I hope everyone understands how day-to-day criminality degrades a neighborhood. In addition to the physical danger that residents face, routine street-level crime depresses property values, often leads to blight and depopulation, reduces the community respect for police officers generally and so forth and so on.

I have a lot of respect for Savannah police officers. They work really hard in sometimes very difficult and dangerous situations for not-so-great pay. But that doesn’t mean their work shouldn’t be criticized as necessary.