GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Historically, the Fourth of July weekend can be a violent one; however, Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack believes this year could be different.
“I think this is going to be a celebratory weekend with no violence, but it's always safe to get out ahead of the curve and remind parents that young people need your help for them to be responsible. They need your guidance,” Womack said. “A lot of parents are going to be having fun. So, we just want to remind them don't have so much fun that you forget to monitor what your teenagers are doing.”
Womack believes the pandemic and subsequent shutdowns allowed teenagers and other youth to gather without supervision. He said that’s what’s led to the spike in violence in Grand Rapids and nationwide lately. According to the Gun Violence Archive, over 8,600 people have died this year due to shootings.
“We've had a number of children that have been the victims of gun violence between the hours at 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan,” Womack said. “So, we definitely need a message for the parents out there: make sure your teenagers are in the house at a certain time.”
Thousands are expected to attend the fireworks show near downtown Grand Rapids on Saturday night. GRPD Sgt. Dan Adams said he hopes everyone, no matter where they are, enjoys the barbecue and festivities. However, because of the large crowds and expected high activity, GRPD will have officers out on patrol.
“Just remember unfortunately every year around the Fourth of July people do like to come outside and fire off some guns,” said Sergeant Adams. “Remember what goes up must come down.”
Sergeant Adams added that people using fireworks must light them on their own personal and private property, and not in church or business parking lots. And, they have to do it by 11:45 p.m. After that, they’re prohibited.
“We also hope that people use their fireworks respectfully of their neighbors,” Sergeant Adams said. “We do get a lot of calls from people with pets, veterans with PTSD that has some issues with the fireworks.”
Womack hopes that people will use fireworks responsibly as well to prevent as many injuries as possible.
“By people combining fireworks, people carrying fireworks in their pocket during this hot season, and sometimes they set off in your pocket; we’re more prone to accidents on the Fourth of July [from] fireworks than gun violence," Womack said.
Nevertheless he hopes many youth will remain indoors as soon as they're done having fun with fireworks.
"They have a bright future," Womack said. "You don't want to end it by being the victim of gun violence being in the wrong place at the wrong time."