GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Gun violence continues to climb nationwide, including in Grand Rapids and elsewhere in West Michigan. LINC UP, a grassroots organization that works to build up under-resourced communities, believes it’s due to the pandemic.
“On top of the heat and everything going on, we’re coming out of a pandemic,” said Willie Patterson, director of community engagement. “People have been pent up in their houses for a year plus and it’s just a lot of pent up anger and aggression that can seep out into the streets. I think that’s what we’re seeing.”
According to the Gun Violence Archive, over 10,000 people have died due to gun violence this year across the country.
Monday afternoon, President Biden met with leaders and officials from Chicago, Memphis, Newark, New York City and other cities to discuss ways to combat it.
“There’s no one size fits all. We know there are some things that work,” said Biden during a press conference. “The first of those that work is stemming the flow of firearms used to commit violent crimes.”
Biden talked about using some of the millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan to fund local law enforcement agencies and hire more patrol officers.
Patterson said that’s not the best strategy to combat gun violence.
“I don’t think you can police your way out of this thing. I think there’s no silver bullet approach to it,” Patterson said. “It’s a silver buck shot where you can take multiple approaches and get to a solution.”
Biden also stated that he’d like to allocate funds for mental health programs and substance use disorder programs.
He said that investing in such entities have shown to help reduce crime by 60 percent.
For Patterson, that's an effective plan, he said.
“Mental health outlets, especially for younger kids, we have to have something for younger kids to do that will draw them into another vision of what summer can look like instead of doing bad things,” Patterson said. “So, those resources [should go into] a lot of summer programming, things that attract those audiences that tend to be the target or cause of a lot of our problems.”
After last summer’s civil unrest in Grand Rapids, GRPD released a three-year strategic plan meant to reduce violence and ultimately build better relationships with the community. LINC UP has reviewed it and been a part of discussions with local leaders about its progress.
However, Patterson said at this time they’d like to see more communication from the police.
“There’s not a lot of response from the police as far as addressing the communities needs,” Patterson said. “So, the strategic plan came out and there’s been no real checks and balances to go through that strategic plan.”
Nevertheless, LINC UP and other community organizations will continue to work with GRPD, he said. Now, he wants the community to get involved in order to make real change.
“If there are opportunities to get involved, please get involved,” Patterson said. “Be a part of this and make your voice heard through the City Commission, talking with your commissioners, local leaders to make sure that the people that we’re talking to knows exactly what we’re asking for and for them to advocate for us and our communities.”