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Flint, MI– Flint’s chief of police is looking to fund three programs to combat gun violence using American Rescue Plan Act funds.
During a May 9, 2022, Flint City Council meeting, Police Chief Terence Green said he has three “primary” initiatives that he wants to fund using ARPA dollars which include a violence interrupters program, witness protection, and youth intervention and enrichment programs.
“A violence interrupter program…basically utilizes members of the community to interrupt violence. They’re in the community. Their ear is in the community,” Green explained in the May 9 meeting. “Community members tend to confide in them a lot quicker than they would law enforcement.”
In March of 2021, the city learned that it would be receiving $94.7 million in ARPA funds as part of a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package intended to aid the country in recovering from the pandemic. The money has specific eligible uses outlined in a 437-page document. Preventing and responding to violence is an approved use of the funds.
At the May 9 council meeting, Flint City Councilwoman Tonya Burns called for a Special Order to discuss the Flint Police Department’s plan to combat violence in preparation for the summer months, especially in light of a recent violent weekend.
Green told the council that violent crime in Flint is down by 25% compared to last year.
According to the Flint Police Department’s crime summary comparison from Jan. 1, 2022, to April 17, 2022, there were 367 violent crimes compared to 492 during the same time period in 2021—a 25.41% decrease.
There were 41 nonfatal shootings from Jan. 1, 2022, to May 1, 2022, according to data from the Michigan State Police Department, and a total of 15 homicides during that time period, 14 of which were shootings.
In 2021 there were 77 nonfatal shootings and 21 fatal shootings during that period, according to MSP.
Green told the council that the police department has begun implementing initiatives to combat violent crime, including a “geographically-focused policing initiative” and hiring 29 full-time officers since September 2020, including five who have recently graduated from the police academy.
He added that he is working with the city’s compliance firm, Ernst & Young, for the ARPA funds to prepare a budget and proposals for three new programs.
The implementation of “violence interruption” strategies has shown to be effective in several cities around the country.
In 2019, Flint Beat reported the impact of violence interruption programs in communities plagued by gun violence. According to a 2017 study from the John Jay Research and Evaluation Center, there was a 63% reduction in shootings in New York’s South Bronx with the implementation of a violence interruption model.
Additionally, a Johns Hopkins evaluation of the model’s effects in Baltimore reported a 56% reduction in killings and a 34% reduction in shootings in one community.
Green said he hopes to implement a program “identical” to the one in Baltimore in Flint, saying he thinks the program will be “even more successful” in Flint due to the city’s 34 square miles—almost a third of the size of Baltimore’s 92.28 square miles.
“I hope that that comes to truth because I don’t know how long this community can survive,” said Flint City Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer. “We’re literally dying. You know, we’re dying by a million cuts of torture. It’s a small cut every day. We’re just digging in and digging and digging in. We’ve got to fix it.”
Green said the department plans to partner with organizations but did not specify particular groups.
Flint Police Sgt. Tyrone Booth said in a May 10, 2022 email to Flint Beat that it is “too early” to identify those partnering groups and that an announcement will be made in the future when they reach the point of selecting partners.
Green said in addition to the violence interrupters program, witness protection would also help ease fears of retaliation, potentially helping solve cases in Flint.
He said about a year and a half ago, the police department partnered with the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office to convene a grand jury for violent crime cases resulting in the indictment of more than 80 people.
With a grand jury, Green said the witnesses could testify privately without fear of retaliation. But, he said there would come a time when their information would be made public.
“We still have to provide safety to those witnesses … we may have to relocate them, provide them shelter, things of that nature,” Green said.
Last year, Green pleaded with the community to come forward with information about violent crimes to help the police solve cases. Many victims feared retaliation and adhered to a “street code” against “snitching,” he said.
With this program, Green said he hopes to show witnesses that the department is committed to protecting their safety and their families.
“I truly believe … that more witnesses will come forward and provide crucial information so these cases, whatever it is, a drive-by shooting, homicide, sexual assault, will be solved,” Green said.
Green did not provide details on plans for youth intervention and enrichment programs but said it would be similar to a “youth mentorship program.”
He told the council that the proposals would hopefully be brought to them for approval within the next few weeks.