Flint, MI- With rampant gun violence in Flint, some residents say they can’t even go to a gas station without being afraid. Some don’t let their children play outside anymore. They’re wondering if Flint has a plan.
These residents spoke during a special city council meeting on Feb. 2, convened by Councilwoman Monica Galloway and Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter, to discuss gun violence in the city. Residents and council members had the opportunity to voice their concerns to Mayor Sheldon Neeley and Police Chief Terence Green, and hear a response.
Council President Kate Fields and Councilman Santino Guerra were not present for this meeting.
Flint resident Quincy Murphy, who said his family was personally devastated by gun violence in December, spoke about the importance of jobs.
He said knowing the number of police officers the city has “is not going to stop people in the heat of the moment.”
“These people out here on the street need jobs,” he said. “If y’all don’t find these jobs…you’ll keep on seeing this stuff.”
Leslie Haney called in and said hearing gunshots in her neighborhood has become “a regular occurrence.” She’s even had a bullet come into her house before.
“I find it really ironic that we’re having a council meeting for public safety, and at 6:12 p.m. tonight, there were 12 gunshots in my neighborhood all within ear shot,” Haney said. “I was gonna actually suggest putting the curfew back in place, but apparently at 6:12 in the evening…I mean we can’t lock everybody down 24/7.”
She said closing liquor stores and gas stations early, or limiting their sale of alcohol, could be helpful.
Jeremy Herman said he just needed to hear from the City about what their plan is.
“We live in fear every day,” he said. “Things are getting worse and worse.”
He said he didn’t want to blame anybody, but knows that different policies produce different outcomes.
“I don’t think anybody…the mayor…or the police chief wants crime to happen,” he said. “But what are they doing? What is the plan? I’m not hearing any plan. We’re lacking that type of transparency.”
Mayor Neeley said that the City has never been without a plan, but that not all of it can be revealed to the public.
“[Chief Green] cannot always broadcast what the plan is to the criminals that may be in engaging in various activities to our community,” Neeley said. “But we’re more than willing to share and take input from city council members to be able to try to resolve these issues.”
Still, Neeley described some of the initiatives the City has taken to reduce crime, many of which were implemented with Former Police Chief Phil Hart in a three-part crime plan announced in July 2020.
The crime plan consisted of hiring more officers, creating a Special Investigative Unit targeting illegal weapons, and implementing a gun buyback program.
Neeley said the City increased officer pay and launched a campaign to encourage Flint residents to apply for officer positions.
According to Chief Green, there are 11 officers in the process of being hired. Six are in training, two are in the academy, and three are in the final stages of being hired. Green said there were 24 vacant positions when he was hired in September of 2020. With a few retirements and a military recruitment, he said there are still roughly 18-20 vacant positions.
Neeley said the SIU consists of “young, aggressive, smart officers” who have been successful in getting illegal weapons off the street. Last year, they collected 655 weapons, none of which have been auctioned back off into the city.
“The City of Flint is no longer an arms dealer,” Neeley said. “We want to get guns out of those individuals’ hands that will cause chaos and havoc.”
The gun buyback program was not discussed at last night’s meeting. Neeley did discuss the City’s implementation of a curfew, and the creation of a task force of citizens “bridge the gap” between residents’ concerns and the police department.
Chief Green said the police department is crime mapping, collecting data, and looking at hot spots all the time. Every week, he says the department meets to evaluate and adjust their strategies.
Mayor Neeley stressed the importance of community partnerships and urged residents to form neighborhood watch groups and be involved with their community.
He described an instance where through a partnership with the Nation of Islam, the police department was able to apprehend someone.
“They came to assist, as community members, to assist law enforcement,” Neeley said. “They took to the streets to get information, they talked to their families. They did not go off and try to do policing. What they did was talk to their friends, and their friends talked to their friends, and the tips came in, and the tips came in.”
Several suggestions for improving public safety were made throughout the meeting:
- Putting more money into public safety, and attempting to get money from higher levels of government.
- Increasing police presence by having officers patrol neighborhoods more often.
- Resuming helicopter patrols.
- Limiting the sale of alcohol at night.
- Forming community watch groups.
While there were no decisions made last night, members agreed it was a productive dialogue that they all would like to continue having. Councilwoman Winfrey-Carter said more frequent meetings to discuss crime patterns and trends would be helpful, and Green said that was something they could do.