GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– It was a movement created out of tragedy. The Stop the Violence Campaign in Grand Rapids formed after a violent stretch in winter of 2012-2013. And now, one year later, leaders from that movement are sharing what they’ve learned through a series of meetings and the latest crime report.
“Young people were dropping long before their maturity date,” remembers Pastor Jerry Bishop of Life Quest Urban Outreach.
he’s referring to the time when eight young people were murdered over December 2012 and January 2013.
“The community was looking for answers.”
Out of that panic, came the Stop the Violence campaign. A full-blown initiative with church, police and people from around Grand Rapids who brainstormed how to stop teens and young adults from killing each other. Nearly a thousand people packed Messiah Missionary Baptist Church last January for one of the first meetings.
The meetings happened periodically throughout 2013, and now, church leaders and police are updating us with what they’ve learned.
“It’s unfortunate that we don’t stay proactive in saving lives,” said Pastor Bishop.
He’s not talking about the passion to save our children. He claims there’s a bigger problem.
“We are in a culture of not reporting crime not matter how violent or who the victims are,” he explained.
While it looks like the crime numbers are down, and they have dropped consistently over the last 17 years, according to the latest crime report released January 27th, police and Pastor Bishop attribute some of that to people just not reporting crime.
“There are times we have incidents where shooting victims wouldn’t report it,” said Eric Payne, a captain with GRPD. “Even if we have victims, it’s a struggle getting witnesses to come forward. Its been a struggle for us over the years.”
Pastor Bishop said that causes the community to go into hibernation. The Stop the Violence campaign is trying to change that.
“We are going to help people sit down and identify what is acceptable behavior, what is not and then how can they get involved in the reporting of it,” explained Pastor Bishop.
The answer is simple: try to stay ahead of the violence. The group is even studying how a model called Cure Violence, which was used to help cut down gun violence in Chicago, could be used in GR. It uses people trained at interrupting patterns.
“We are going to have to treat this like the epidemic that is it,” said Bishop. “We can’t afford to go to sleep between season. We have to stay consciously awake.”
but incorporating that model won’t happen overnight. Funding is needed. Captain Payne says they’re in the middle of studying it now and says city commissioners are aware of it as well. The Stop the Violence initiative could also depend on who is chosen to replace retiring police chief, Kevin Belk.