GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A string of shootings in Grand Rapids are concerning for the city’s police chief, he says.
There were two homicides in the span of 12 hours during the weekend of May 14. On May 15, multiple businesses in Eastown were shot up. On May 16, a person was shot along the East Beltline. Later that evening, a man showed up to the hospital with a gunshot wound.
Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Eric Winstrom said police often see a spike in violence when it gets warmer out. But a growing concern for him is bullets being fired at people’s houses.
“You think of a bullet that goes through the front window of a house and you’re like, ‘Oh it’s just a broken window.’ It’s potentially a murder. It’s potentially a murder of an innocent person or a child that’s sitting in that house,” he said. “When people shoot indiscriminately in an urban environment like Grand Rapids, the potential is there for young innocent victims to get killed. It’s scary. So we’re going do what we can to stop it.”
Over the last few weeks, Winstrom said they’ve been seeing young people, some as young as 13, stealing cars and using them for drive-by shootings.
“It’s almost like it’s a game. We have been fortunate that no innocent bystander has been hit by one of these shooters, drive-by shootings. But it’s certainly a fear of mine,” he said.
Winstrom spoke with News 8 on Thursday afternoon. That evening, two likely bystanders were shot during a shooting in a high school parking lot in Gaines Township near Grand Rapids, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office said. The sheriff’s office said suspects in two white sedans started exchanging gunshots and then took off.
Silent Observer on Thursday announced it is increasing rewards for tips that lead to suspects being brought to justice. The reward for murder cases is now 28% higher. For shootings resulting in a serious injury, the reward is 33% more than before and the reward for shootings with property damage, like shots fired into a home, has doubled.
“It is extremely helpful for us in making the city safer,” the police chief said. “A lot of times that is what starts the ball rolling. And if it were not for that anonymous tip the case would not get solved.”
Silent Observer allows people to provide tips anonymously. Winstrom said that, plus the reward, can convince people to come forward.
“Sometimes it’s hesitancy to cooperate with police. Sometimes it’s fear of retaliation. Whatever it is, if they’re on the fence, a lot of times the monetary incentive really gets them over the fence, ‘I am going do this,'” he said.
— News 8’s Madalyn Buursma contributed to this report.