GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Police Department is increasing the number of officers on the streets this weekend.
It’s part of a program it calls “Operation: Safe Neighborhoods,” which dates back to last year. On a specified weekend, GRPD floods the streets with officers. They’re not looking for anyone violating even the smallest traffic rule, department brass says, but rather have particular targets.
On Saturday, GRPD said it made 19 arrests (including five felonies), issued 11 citations and recovered two stolen vehicles and four firearms on Friday night.
Arrest charges included attempting to disarm an officer, fleeing and eluding, possession with intent to deliver and resisting and obstructing, police said. Officers also confiscated cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
“Operation: Safe Neighborhoods came out of that plan we wanted to make sure we were using our available data and stats and our info and being very intentional in targeting violent offenders in high-crime areas, but also doing so in a manner that residents or stakeholders in neighborhood (weren’t) feeling like they were being overpoliced or harassed or anything like that,” GRPD Sgt. Dan Adams explained. “We do have hot spots expecting to target but we also look at data and crime patterns right up to the moment we deploy.”
The department receives assistance from other agencies like Michigan State Police Aviation Unit.
On Friday night, News 8 crews spotted police around the southeast part of town patrolling in cars and in helicopters. One officer offered to assist a group of people with car problems.
The officers are also encouraged to build relationships with community members to help combat some of the causes of crime. They are given the opportunity to choose what part of the city they want to patrol.
“By having officers vested in specific neighborhoods building relationships with residents, schools, business owners and having same officers interact consistently that the residents, they will know who to expect, what to expect, who to reach out to when they need something,” Adams said.
Elijah Libbett, who owns a restaurant on the Southeast side, likes the idea but not the execution.
“There’s more that needs to be done,” Libbett said.
Libbett is involved with community groups that partner with law enforcement to address violence. He feels everyone that should be heard has not been.
“The shooters, the violators are not being invited to the table,” Libbett said. “They’re not having a conversation with the powers that be or the police.”
Libbett recognizes it’s not an easy task to get both sides to meet.
“If something happens in the streets and there’s a lot of people around and they say, ‘Why don’t they say something?’ Because it’s a code they live by,” Libbett said. “If you got a policeman that’s harassing someone in the community, no other police come forward and say, ‘Hey, stop doing that’ or go to his sergeant and say he used excessive force. When the community sees this is how they are treated, they get defensive, they don’t want to have a conversation.”
How many times police decide to run a weekend of increased patrols will be based on crime data as the year progresses.