What Can We Do To Stop The Violence In Grand Rapids?
This past weekend, there were two shootings and a massive brawl in Grand Rapids during the fireworks celebrations on Saturday. During this, one person was killed by gunfire, marking the 9th homicide for the city in 2019. We are barely over halfway through the year and have already has just as many killing in Grand Rapids as last year. This adds to a string of 10 shootings in 5 days at the end of June, as well as another on Friday night.
In addition to this, the city council is dragging it’s feet on picking a new police chief, so we have an interim officer in place that has to deal with all of this, but does not have the pull to institute a long term plan. Of the 3 candidates, one has recently withdrawn from consideration for the position. With a growing city, we have to anticipate that tcrime will grow as well. This, however, is out of control and the community needs to find a solution before this violence spreads further.
Violence has been increasing in Grand Rapids at an alarming rate. The escalation took a bad turn on June 22nd. Between 10:30 pm that night and 3:00 am the following morning, there were 4 shootings in the city. The first involved a person shooting at a home after a family argument. Shortly after this, a person shot into a crowd of people in Eastown, and luckily nobody was hurt. Then another house was shot at a few hours later, and a 10 year old girl was shot in the leg. After this, another shooting at Burton and Division took place after an altercation between two men. According to the Grand Rapids Police Department, there is no connection between these shootings. Three of the four were on the southeast side of Grand Rapids, and we anticipate an increase in patrols of the area.
After these shootings, several more followed over the next few days, leading to 10 shootings in 5 days. Another shooting at a public park in the middle of the day came just days later. These shootings, in addition to the shootings occuring between July 4th and July 7th, are becoming more frequent and more dangerous. There was a shooting just a few blocks from my house last week. The firing of guns in the city is up over 50% from last year already. It is time to put an end to the violence and crack down on crime in Grand Rapids.
Finding A New Police Chief
On December 18, 2018, the former Grand Rapids Chief of Police, David Rahinsky chose to announce his retirement. Since then, Deupty Chief David Kiddle has been filling the role as interim chief. So for over 6 months, Grand Rapids has not had a full time Chief of Police. Over that period of time, many crimes have been increasing and already been higher than all of 2018, including homicides. This is speculation, but I think that without a long term chief, long term plans cannot be made. This means that the department is doing more damage control than damage prevention. I do not fault the GRPD at all, this is not their fault, but a decision needs to be made soon by the city.
There are currently 2 remaining candidates for the position. Grand Rapids Deputy Police Chief Eric Payne and retired Pitsburgh Assistant Police Chief Larry Scirotto are the finalists for the position. Lansing Police Chief Michael Yankowski withdrew his candidacy at the end of June, citing making a decision that is best for his family. It is unclear if this has relation to the increase in shooting just before his announcement. I wouldn’t blame him for wanting to keep his family away from the increase in violence. Mark Washington, the Grand Rapids City Manager, had previously set up to annouce the new chief by the end of June. He has since chosen to delay making a decision, even though the city needs it now more than ever. Hopefully we will have full-time Police Chief in the near future.
The community must play an active role in helping to reduce crime in Grand Rapids. Many community leaders have gathered to discuss ideas for reducing crime, including gun buy-back programs, increased parental monitoring of children, and clergy efforts. A Third Ward city commissioner, Nathaniel Moody, is meeting with the clergy community of GRand Rapids to build a plan. The goal will be to engage with the community and youth, raising awareness and solving issues. He also asks parents of youth, as well as young adults, to help influence their children in avoiding violent crimes and malicious behavior.
Another role of the community is to speak up about what is happening. There is a code of silence amongst many people in Grand Rapids. This silence adds to the problem and leads to worse violence. Many people think that people will work out their problems on their own, and the police do not need to be involved. How do these people work out their problems? With more violence, fights and shootings? The situation only gets worse and crime increases. We need to work together as a community, report illegal guns being bought and sold, and get them off of the streets. Nobody wants to bury a loved one because they didn’t share information that could have prevented violence.
If you have any information, you can contact the GRPD, or to remain anonymous, contact Silent Observer. Silent Observer allows you to submit anonymous tips and protects your identity from the Freedom of Information Act and subpoenas. The number to reach them is 616-774-2345.