JACKSON, Mich. — Jackson is putting $1.5 million from the American Rescue Plan money the city received from the federal government into a gun violence intervention program.
“It’s just a different approach,” said Elmer Hitt, the city's director of police and fire services. “Something we’ve never tried here in Jackson. I certainly think if we stick to the fidelity of the model and the way the strategy is set up and approach it in the way that it’s meant to be approached we could see a significant impact I believe on our known group violence in the city of Jackson.”
They worked with John Jay College to design the program to be as specific as possible to what the city of Jackson might need.
“They kind of help start the program, advise us and help us implement it over a two-year program,” Mayor Derek Dobies said. “That proposal to allocate and obligate $1.5 million into the Police Department not only pays for that partnership with John Jay and that training with John Jay but it helps to fund a program manager and at least two but hopefully more than two social workers at the city police department to help implement the program and also help to address community mental health as it relates to crime in the city.”
Data from the Jackson Police Department shows as of August, there have been 63 total shootings this year, 44 of which had evidence on scene confirming a shooting like bullet holes and casings. At least 22 people have been injured in shootings.
Hitt says research shows across the country a very small percentage of the population is involved in a very high number of gun violence. He believes Jackson is no different.
“In their analysis of the shootings and gun violence in Jackson certainly reflected the same, that it is a very small percentage of our population that is committing and involved in gun violence in our community that are associated with the large bulk of gun violence that we experience in the city,” Hitt said.
Dobies added that what the city is seeing is groups retaliating against each other.
“Back in 2019, they identified there’s about 100 to 150 individuals in the city so about half of a percent of our population here that contribute more than 50 percent of the violence that we see,” Dobies said. “So, you got a small portion of people that are contributing half of all the gunshots and violence that we see in our neighborhoods.”
The goal of gun violence intervention is to target what Dobies calls a “small at-risk population” with outreach and resources.
A social worker and program coordinator would work in the police department on gun violence intervention solutions. Once the program is started, police, neighbors and community organizations will work together to approach these groups committing gun violence and look for solutions in getting them to stop.
“It's not a law-enforcement-only approach,” Hitt said. “It is going to intertwine with other organizations in the community and offer sincere help to those group members that want help, that is involved in the violence and they will be given the opportunity to seek help if they want it.”
According to Dobies, this model has been implemented in other cities such as Chicago, Detroit and Kalamazoo. He cautions this will not end the violence altogether.
“Studies have shown that it is a way to reduce a large amount of violence that we see in the communities,” Dobies said. “We’re adequately funding the police department and will continue to allocate resources there but we have to also find ways that we’re not just constantly reacting to the violence with a 9-1-1 call and having police show up either during an altercation or after an altercation and them being put in harm’s way.”
“To actually have a program that is being proactive enough to stop that violence in the first place I think is a worthy endeavor," Dobies said. "When it is backed up by data and information and studies of where it has worked in other communities, I think that should be an exciting opportunity for our community to endeavor.”
The $1.5 million allocation will fund the city’s program through the next five years. This will allow the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College to design and implement a “GVI solution specific to Jackson,” according to a city press release.