BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Two weeks after a toddler was shot to death in what police say was an attempted street robbery, residents of the coastal city faced police officials Thursday with suggestions and grievances that included pleas for more officers in their neighborhoods and more efforts to get guns off the streets.
More than 150 residents attended a town hall meeting in Brunswick. Police chiefs for the city and surrounding Glynn County, along with the sheriff, took questions and criticism in equal measure for more than 90 minutes – often saying they simply don’t have the money to protect the community as well as they would like.
Richard Willis, who lives near downtown, said he no longer sees officers on bike or on foot in his neighborhood and complained about a recent burglary.
“It took over two hours for the city police department to show up while my neighbors were watching these people take stuff out of the house,” Willis said.
Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said he was forced to cut bike patrols because he had to stretch his budget in recent years. He said a single murder investigation by his department will typically run up more than 300 hours of overtime, costing taxpayers at least $10,000.
“You want more officers on the street?” Doering asked.
“You need to pay for it.”
Jannie Everette urged police to start a program where they would accept guns brought to them by residents with no questions asked.
“These guns need to be taken off the street,” she said. “There are crimes being committed with guns by people who, I believe, are not the original owners.”
Sarah O’Neill, who lives near downtown, told the chiefs she has trouble being eyes and ears for the police when 911 dispatchers don’t believe what she tells them.
She said she recently called to report two men dealing drugs on her street and was told by a dispatcher that the men she was looking at were police. O’Neill said that was preposterous.
“We know what goes in our neighborhoods,” she said. “You need to listen to us.”
Green, the city police chief, responded: “We’re listening now.”
Police have charged two teenagers — 17-year-old De’Marquise Elkins and Dominique Lang, 15 — with murder in the toddler’s slaying last month. Attorneys for both Elkins and Lang have said they believe their clients are innocent. Elkins was scheduled to appear before a judge for a bond hearing Friday.