KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo city commissioners were presented a report Monday detailing gun violence in the city and some of the public outreach efforts already under way to help stop it. 

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Deputy Chief David Boysen helped break down the numbers of an already busy 2022 for officers.

“(Gun violence) is a topic that’s on a lot of our minds,” Boysen said. “We continue to work hard, the men and women in public safety, with the community every day to address these concerns.”

Last year, Kalamazoo saw a record of juvenile weapon offenses and the number of seized guns. Boysen said both stats this year are at least more than half of 2021’s. He believes there is a common trend.

“This is not random. Most of these youth that are involved in this are group-involved. They associate with groups or gangs,” Boysen said. “We know who they are. We know who makes up these groups. We know who they’re beefing with.”

When looking at the ages of the victims in group-involved shootings this year, the average age was 24 years old. The youngest was 14.

“These shooting victims and suspects are getting younger and younger,” Boysen said.

According to Boysen, some of the guns and accessories include rifles, rifle-pistols, high-capacity magazines and drum magazines. He told commissioners another commonality as to how these legally purchased guns end up being stolen.

“What we’ve seen in the last two years is really an increase in motor vehicle thefts,” Boysen said. “What we’re finding is the youth are looking at … unlocked cars and they’re looking for weapons. If the … key fob is in there, they’re going to steal the car as a bonus, but they’re really looking for guns.”

KDPS Police Chief Vernon Coakley and other leaders presented to commissioners how the department and its partners are trying to curb the violence, including youth outreach. In one example, officers and the Kalamazoo Urban Alliance connected with kids at a Life Camp early last week.

“We have to be intentional about getting to our youth and talking about healthy choices, wherever they’re at,” Coakley added.

Ten months after the city declared gun violence as a public health crisis, the department’s community service team explained how providers deal with mental health-related calls and cases. KDPS Social Services Coordinator Kelsey Harness said providing the right care starts with a strength-based approach, especially on repeat calls and referrals.

“We listen to their ongoing situation and concerns, assess needs, and then work with them to identify and link them to the most appropriate services,” Harness explained.

Another key part of the collective effort they highlighted is Pastors on Patrol, where participating clergy like Rev. Greg Jennings Sr. actively help in domestic violence, mental health and drug abuse cases.