Crime Concerns Across West Michigan

Posted at 7:14 PM, Jul 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-02 07:56:47-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A teenager was shot and killed in Grand Rapids over the weekend. An hour and a half later, another shooting occurred.

Members of the community say it’s all a reminder that more needs to be done, not only to stop the violence in Grand Rapids, but throughout West Michigan.

On Sunday, at about 1:30 a.m., Carlos Martinez, 18, was walking with a friend through a parking lot, located near Division Avenue and Cutler Street.

Then, at about 3 a.m., another shooting occurred at the Big Save Party Store.

So far, there are no suspects in the shooting death of Martinez.

Jerry Bishop, pastor of Life Quest, said the community needs to help police track down suspects involved in these types of violent crimes.

“If we do not step up and begin to communicate what you see, it’s only going to escalate to a plague of violence, a plague of silence,” Bishop said. “There’s been enough killing of unsolved murders. It’s time for us to start doing our jobs as citizens and people.”

Grand Rapids isn’t the only concern. In Kalamazoo, there were 39 assaults and one homicide in June. In Muskegon, for the same month, there was 82 assaults. Grand Rapids comes in with 192 total assaults, plus these latest shootings.

At the beginning of the year, gun violence was occurring at such an alarming rate that the Grand Rapids Police Department formed a violent crimes task force.

“It’s helping,” one member of the community said, “but they can’t patrol the streets constantly, all the time.”

Another program started to raise awareness about violence is Stop It: A Grand Rapids Community Involvement Initiative.

Bishop is a part of that group. He said the meetings that are held with the community has increased awareness about the crimes in the area.

“But awareness will only go so far,” he said. “Now we need to transition the awareness to actual engagement of the audiences that’s perpetrating these crimes.”

He said another issue is that people don’t come forward with information about these crimes because they fear retaliation.

“We have to break down a culture of silence. That’s not going to be something that happens overnight.”

Still, Bishop said the violence sweeping across West Michigan can improve.

“I believe there’s eternal hope,” he said.