GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Violent crime in Grand Rapids rose 10% over 2011, crime statistics released Tuesday reveal -- but still below levels between 2007-10.
At a public safety meeting, GRPD Chief Kevin Belk presented the information to several city commission members. Police pointed to trends that show violent crime is trending downward over recent years.
"Obviously we're worried about the last six weeks, but that is an abnormality in our community," Belk said. "Over the long term, we've certainly seen a significant decrease in violent crime in our community."
The number of violent crimes in recent years:
- 2007 - 2,065
- 2008 - 1,974
- 2009 - 1,613
- 2010 - 1,642
- 2011 - 1,439
- 2012 - 1,583
In 2012, there were 18 homicides in the city of Grand Rapids, and only two were classified as justifiable.
"This last year, obviously, went back up about 10%, but I think it's important to remember that last year, it was down over 12%," he said. "So, as you see, last year was pretty much being lows in crime in an awful long time, and certainly in my career. So, it isn't surprising to see a little bit of a swing back, but certainly disappointing at the same time."
In talking about the five unsolved homicides in the month that began Dec. 14, 2012, Belk said the investigators are making progress:
"There certainly are persons of interest that are in custody in these incidents. We're working with the prosecutor's office to continue our investigation using investigative subpoenas. We've had a lot of cooperation from ATF, Violent Crime Fugitive Task Force, the FBI that we have officers assigned to, but as I said, I'm certainly pleased with our progress."
"I'd much rather have arrests made, and I'm hopeful that that would come in the weeks ahead," he added.
"What happened to me was a traumatic moment for me. I was shot once in the head, and twice in my back," Mark O'Leary explained Tuesday afternoon.
O'Leary was in courtroom 10C, where he saw the man who pleaded to shooting him sentenced by a judge.
Judge Paul Sullivan decided that Erik Hawkins-Giffen should stay behind bars for no less than 20 years for one count of attempted murder and one count of felony firearms use.
"My heart was beating fast. I can't really explain the feeling (of seeing him)," O'Leary said.
O'Leary said Hawkins shot him in the face outside a party store on the Grand Rapids' northwest side, O'Leary lost sight in one eye and can barely see out of the other.
"I remember that was the most terrifying day of my life, is what I do remember," O'Leary said back in December.
He said he had a dispute with the shooter before the incident because he told Hawkins-Giffen to put the gun away and struggled with the suspect before the shooting.
"I looked down to look at my chips, and that's when he shot me in the face once. I was still in shock, I turned around. I tried to run, but I didn't get far at all. I was shot two more times in the back," O'Leary said in December. "I had to practically crawl to the store. I got to the store and I just kept begging for help. I started praying to God. And I just woke up in the hospital."
O'Leary hopes that two-decade sentence sends a strong message to the community.
"And hopefully it doesn't happen to anyone else," he said.
The judge asked O'Leary's family how they have been affected emotionally.
Previously, the family told 24 Hour News 8 they have been struggling to pay more than $60,000 worth of medical bills and didn't expect to have much of a Christmas.
A fund has been set up in Mark O'Leary's name at Fifth Third Bank to help cover medical expenses. Donations may be made at any Fifth Third Bank branch in his name.
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