MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The Muskegon County Board of Commissioners voted to approve funding for the county sheriff’s department in an effort to curb gun violence.
The board voted unanimously during a meeting on Tuesday evening following a presentation by the county sheriff describing a spike in violent crime in the area.
“I just wanted to thank the sheriff for his attention because I live in (Muskegon) Heights and things have changed rapidly,” Commissioner Rillastine Wilkins, who serves District 1, said during the meeting. “I mean the streets are like racetracks at night, there’s gun fire.”
In his report, Sheriff Michael Poulin said from January to June of this year, Muskegon and Muskegon Heights police departments received a combined 440 shots fired calls, 68 reports of people wounded in shootings, 226 weapons offenses and seven homicides.
Poulin asked commissioners to use money from the general fund to give the department $30,000 for their overtime budget. The sheriff says that money would allow them to add additional shifts for deputies who will assist local departments in cutting down on violent crime.
“The additional patrols are specific to help reduce these violent crimes and catch these offenders who are out on our streets killing people,” Poulin said.
Poulin said based on information from other departments, a lot of the crime is gang related.
Muskegon Heights Police Chief Maurice Sain said the numbers in his jurisdiction do not indicate a spike in crime. He says they are similar to previous years, but the department wants to be proactive and prevent as much as possible.
“It’s like when will it end? What will it take for us to say we got to solve this in another way,” community leader Michelle Tyson said of the violence.
Tyson says she has lived in the Muskegon area for the last 25 years. She says the community has changed a lot. To help curb gun violence, Tyson says she created her organization Taking Back Muskegon.
“We’re losing a lot of people that are not into the gang violence, that aren’t doing anything out here in the streets. But we’re losing them because bullets don’t have a name on it,” Tyson said.
Tyson says she wishes additional patrols were not necessary, but she hopes they will translate to less violence and fewer deaths.
“We need something that brings us all together, and I think more community involvement with our police, with our fire department, with the community firsthand — that’s what’s needed right now to show, hey we got y’all and we understand what’s going on. Let’s try to do this as one,” Tyson said.
The vice chairman of the board of commissioners says the money will be distributed to the sheriff’s department immediately. There’s no word on when those patrols will begin officially, but the sheriff’s office says they wouldn’t be limited to one specific municipality.
Meanwhile, Tyson says she’s working with other local organizations to put on a roll bounce event for July 17 to promote anti-violence and unity.