GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Some Grand Rapids residents aren't waiting to find out if the recent jump in violent crime is the start of a new, bad trend. Tuesday, the southeast side neighborhood said enough is enough at a community meeting.
Violent crime in Grand Rapids increased 10% over 2011, according to newly-released figures from the Grand Rapids Police Department.
Five still-unsolved homicides since Dec. 14, 2012 are stark evidence of the increase in violence. But GRPD Chief Kevin Belk says that crime is still down from 2007 to 2010.
Jerline Riley's son Jeffery Owens was 18 years old when he was was shot and killed in February 1994. The recent rise in violence on Grand Rapids streets has brought back the pain of her son's death full-force.
"There's nothing like being in the graveyard, nothing like seeing your baby laying there and there is nothing to do to bring him back," said Riley. "You can ask all the questions, why or whatever. My question to the community is: How can we stand together to show these kids another way of life?"
She said she doesn't want any other mothers to feel her pain.
"I don't want another mother to feel the pain of what it's like for your whole world to change in an instant. It's certain foods I can't eat, certain places I can't go, certain music I can't hear because the pain is so real," she said.
Riley said she wants the violence to stop before it gets worse.
"It will become a war zone and nobody will be safe," she said.
Neighbors Tuesday agreed they need to start working together to stop the violence. They plan to institute neighborhood watches and keep in more regular contact with police.
"Since I've been on Prince (Street SE), I believe there's been 13 murders," Riley said.
Riley is now looking out for her 14-year-old grandson and worries he could be next.
"We need to stop acting like these are isolated cases, because like I said, if they come for my son, they will come for your son," she said.
There is another meeting on violence in Grand Rapids set for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Lifequest Ministries. It will be the second of the "STOP IT" meetings and specifically targets young people and youth workers. The first "STOP IT" meeting drew a thousand people to a church Friday.
Anyone with information about the unsolved homicides or any other crimes is asked to contact GRPD at 616.456.3400 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.
The upcoming "STOP IT" meetings
January 23, 6:30 p.m. For Young people and youth workers. Life Quest, 1050 Fisk SE
February 5, 5:30 p.m. Community meets with police. "Coffee with Captain Payne" 636 Bates SE
February 7, 5:30 p.m Community Forum. Gerald R Ford Middle School. 815 Madison SE
February 21, 5:30 p.m. Clergy. 618 Jefferson SE
February 25-28, Several evening meetings regarding systems, mental health. Urban League 745 Eastern SE
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