GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Increased violent crime rates in Grand Rapids captured the attention of more than two dozen people who attended a community meeting Tuesday evening.
“I don’t want my children to feel unsafe in the city that we call home,” City Commissioner Senita Lenear said at the gathering at the Grand Rapids Public Schools administration building.
The Grand Rapids Police Department says that from Jan. 1. to June 23, the number of noninjury shootings has spiked by 49% compared to the same period last year. Gun-involved robberies also increased by 38% — there were 29 such incidents in the first half of 2018 compared to 40 incidents this year.
“The numbers are certainly concerning,” Interim Chief David Kiddle told 24 Hour News 8 before the meeting. “Enough is enough. It’s time to stand up and for the community to stand up and say this is not acceptable in our community.”
Participants in the discussion shared thoughts on what is causing the violence and ideas for solutions.
“We’re trying,” said a high schooler who participated in the discussion. “The way we live is not our fault.”
The high school student and others listed culture, economics and a lack of parental involvement as some of the root causes of the violence. Many in attendance were black and expressed concern that the violence disproportionately involves victims and assailants who are also black.
“Our kids are struggling,” said business owner and community activist Elijah Libbett. “Why? Because we struggle economically.”
Several speakers said that a lack of investment in the city’s southeast side neighborhoods is a contributing factor to the violence.
Before the open discussion, the city hosted a Pitch Night event that gave entrants the opportunity to submit ideas to a panel of three judges. Winners received funding of up to $10,000.
The top prize went to Lifequest Ministries, whose pastor Jerry Bishop has become a well-known community activist and is popular among the city’s urban youth.
Bishop said the $10,000 grant represents a tiny fraction of the investment needed to truly impact change.
Change is what city leaders say has to happen when it comes to the increased violence on display this year.
“We need to figure out how to stop this,” Lenear told 24 Hour News 8 emphatically.