Flint, MI– Mayor Sheldon Neeley has just declared a State of Emergency for the City of Flint due to gun violence.
At a press conference on July 23, Neeley announced the declaration as well as a new plan to combat the increase in gun violence the city has seen.
“Our community continues to be devastated by gun violence, and some of these things we’ve seen all across our country,” Neeley said. “This gun violence must stop. The circle of retaliation violence must stop.”
According to the declaration, there have been 158 nonfatal shootings in 2021 which is an 80% increase from nonfatal shootings last year. There has also been a 30.43% increase in homicides compared to this time last year, with a total of 39 so far in 2021.
“This is a public health crisis, and this is why we’re taking action, and serious action,” Neeley said.
With this declaration, Neeley also announced a new approach to be taken to combat gun violence in Flint which involves hiring more police, bringing on specialists of other kinds, investing in community centers to engage the city’s youth, and offering community grants to local businesses.
Neeley said the plan involves using about $2.5 million of “drug forfeiture dollars”, as well as the American Rescue Plan act funds to accomplish the various components of the plan.
The first part of the plan is the establishment of “Emergency Response Teams,” or ERTs, which will be comprised of social workers, childcare specialists, resource coordinators, community activists, violence interrupters, members of the Man Up group, and clergy to assist the police department.
“When the officer gets a call to a violent type of crime, the officer will do an assessment, call back to the dispatch, and a commander will make a decision to engage the ERT,” Neeley said.
Neeley said that currently, police are expected to do all of these jobs when they get onto a scene.
“It makes it very difficult for that one officer, or those two officers arriving on the scene to be able to actually engage,” Neeley said. “So each one of those pieces we pulled out.”
He said that with the ERT, there will be multiple people with different skills and backgrounds to assist in the various components of the scene, like a resource coordinator to help get the family to a new location, or members of the clergy to pray with the family if they are a family of faith.
“We will get above that cycle of violence here through this ERT, this emergency response team,” Neeley said.
Neeley said the department is looking to hire people for at least 20 positions. He said Police Chief Terence Green has found 12 recruits for the police department, and that they will be looking to create incentives to hire more officers.
Hiring more officers and increasing incentives for employment has been on the city’s agenda for more than a year to combat crime. Neeley and Former Police Chief Phil Hart announced that the police department would be doing this last year as part of a three part crime plan.
At the conference on July 23, Neeley said hiring officers has been a challenge, and that they are looking for highly qualified individuals, not just “warm bodies.”
The plan announced last year also consisted of implementing a gun buyback program, and a Special Investigative Unit to get illegal guns off the street. The buyback program was never implemented, but the police department has held press conferences over the past year sharing the progress of the SIU.
The new plan is focused more on community investment.
Neeley said they would be investing in community resource centers for young people, as a common complaint from residents is that the youth have nothing to do but engage in violence. Specifically, Neeley said he would be authorizing dollars to go to Flint Police Activities League (PAL) and activating the Haskell Community Center as early as next week.
“I will also be signing and giving dollars to other programs…and as other organizations rise, we’ll be making sure that we provide dollars to them,” Neeley said.
Another part of the plan includes implementing grant programs for businesses that have suffered as a result of gun violence to help them “defend themselves against nefarious activity.” Other grants will be used to develop a Crime Watch of local community members for Flint to be proactive in engaging with potential crime.
Neeley said he has seven days to take the plan to the Flint City Council for approval, although he said he can’t imagine how anyone would not support this.
“It takes a village to save a village, and so we need our village to step up to assist us in that. So we’re engaging, we’re moving forward aggressively, we’re looking at all the resources from the county, the state side, and also the federal side,” Neeley said. “Because of the declaration of emergency, the city council members will be able to step up and boldly say, we agree with this and we’re not gonna talk about it, we’re going to do it. … The public stands to benefit when we all come together to work together.”