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‘Pitch night’ welcomes Grand Rapids community ideas on reducing violence

Posted at 10:27 PM, Dec 05, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A task force to combat violence in Grand Rapids is now taking ideas from the public on how to cut down on the statistics.

The Safe Alliance for Everyone, or SAFE, focuses on making the city more secure and is now offering grant money for the best ideas.

Grand Rapids has allocated $150,000 to the task force, with a portion of the money going toward grants for up to three groups and three individuals' ideas.  On Tuesday, SAFE hosted a 'Pitch Night' for individuals and nonprofit organizations to promote their plans to stop violence.

While no money was awarded Tuesday, city officials say it's exciting to see the community getting involved and wanting to make positive change.

"We’ve taken public comment, but not like this," said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalyn Bliss. "This is one of the unique opportunities to use innovation to bring forward ideas that maybe we haven’t heard about before or even explored before, so I love this model."

Presenters pitched to a group of judges that would target men ages 15 to 24. The ideas included a police/community basketball league, a mentor program for young fathers, an anti-violence ad campaign, lecture circuits, and a golf league.

"This is validating," said Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky. "This is what we see every day from Grand Rapids. This community is very forthright. They’re very quick to give us their input, and for them to come out tonight and share their ideas about how we can be an even better community and better police department means a lot to us."

Though Rahinksy says crime stats in the city are going down, he says now is not the time to sit back.

"We can never reach a point where we’re too good at what we do," he said. "And hearing from the community is most important to us, because what we want to be is responsive to what the community identifies as issues, so this is a great opportunity for us to hear from them.”

From here, the judges will review the applications and make their decision. They will fund up to three nonprofits and award them $5,000 and three individuals will be awarded up to $500.