Flint, MI– Following a weekend with multiple shootings, members of the Flint City Council spent the end of their Monday meeting addressing the violence.
“That was the first hot day, and they went wild,” said Councilwoman Ladel Lewis during the April 25 meeting. “So I can’t afford that. I can’t afford to have that happen on my watch.”
According to a press release from the Flint Police Department, there was a shooting on April 24 around 3:30 p.m. in the 1000 block of East Foss Ave.
According to the initial investigation, three subjects were shot near that location and all are in good condition after receiving medical attention, the release stated. The investigation is ongoing.
The day before, on April 23, there was a fatal shooting at Prime Eight Ten, which is in Mt. Morris Township, just outside of Flint.
Council members addressed the violent weekend during their council meeting, and each speaker offered a different perspective on the issue and potential solutions.
“I had, on one street within a 10-day period, three shootings,” Councilwoman Tonya Burns said, adding that she wants the city to stop using the excuse that crime is “happening everywhere.”
“So we look at neighboring municipalities. We have to deal with our problem and not say, give ourselves a pass by saying it’s happening across the country. We live here. And we need to address it here.”
“I think we need the ShotSpotters, I think we need cameras, I think we need speed bumps,” Murphy said. “I think us as a council need to see what kind of technology we can invest in.”
Additionally, he said the council should consider looking into contracting with other entities to assist the police.
“Maybe if we can’t get police officers here, we need to at least try to get some contracts with some security companies or something to patrol our neighborhoods,” he said. “Or maybe we could look at advancing some Neighborhood Crime Watch.”
Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer said the council needs to “think outside the box” to come up with creative solutions to deal with crime.
“We can’t get new police. We don’t have the budget. So as a group, I implore everyone to think outside the box,” he said. “There’s enough smart minds on this council that we should be able to help the system even if it’s to save one life, even if went from 60 to 55 murders.”
For issues like drag racing and reckless driving, Pfeiffer suggested changing the hotspots for that activity in a way that limits people’s ability to carry out those activities.
“Let’s turn the hotspots into construction zones. Let’s take away their ability,” he said. “We can’t enforce anything. We can’t catch anybody. Let’s turn them into three lanes. Let’s turn them into two lanes. We have to start thinking as a cohesive body and come up with solutions.”
Some council members turned their attention to the culture that supports violence in the community.
Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter said she feels there is a “mindset problem” in Flint that may correspond to a lack of higher levels of education.
“We have a mindset problem here in this city,” she said. “And you all know that we also have a high rate of individuals, a high percentage of individuals, who do not have their high school diploma or GED. So, with levels of education, your mindset begins to change.”
Winfrey-Carter said a person with a “fixed mindset” isn’t thinking about the consequences of their actions.
“They don’t think that if they’re speeding down the street at 90 miles per hour that they may or may run over a child, or they may crash into an elderly person who’s out driving trying to go to the store,” she said. “They don’t care. But it’s a mindset problem in the city, and we’ve got to fix it.”
She said the council needs to work towards pushing people to increase their levels of education to change those mindsets.
Councilwoman Judy Priestley also pointed to the need for an attitude shift and said she felt the main problem was a “lack of respect.”
“I’ve always felt this way. Lack of respect toward themselves, as well as towards other people and their property,” Priestley said. “And I don’t know how we can do that except for teaching that in the home.”
Councilwoman Eva Worthing said she thought this was a cultural issue not just in Flint but in the entire country. As a teacher, Worthing said she was worried about school shootings and a culture of “loving our guns more than our children.”
“It’s our gun culture. That’s number one. And that’s what we have to change nationally,” she said. “We’re the only industrialized country that loves our guns more than our children. The only one. It’s not a problem in Canada. It’s not a problem in Europe. It is a problem in the United States.”
She also said work needs to be done to improve mental health care and education, and said that many of the shootings are for revenge or personal in some way.
“Until we value education, we value our children more than guns, until we change our society as a whole, I don’t think it’s going to be solved,” she said. “But I do believe that we have a heart here on this council to see and take the steps that we can do, but I just don’t think it’s ever going to be enough until we change our culture as a whole nation.”
Vice President Allie Herkenroder closed the discussion by saying she was “incredibly encouraged by the brains” in the room that they could find a solution for Flint.
She encouraged her colleagues to look into various research studies about how other communities reduced gun violence and said she thought the council could address the issue in a variety of ways.
“Whether that be through prevention with different education, whether that be, you know, the smaller ordinances that we may not think have a big impact on our community, but ends up having a tremendous impact,” Herkenroder said.
The council agreed to put a special order on the agenda for the next special affairs committee meeting in two weeks to meet with Flint Police and Michigan State Police officials to discuss possibilities for reducing crime.