NewsLocal News


‘It’s not an easy fix': GR Chamber concerned about rise in violence in downtown area

Posted at 6:38 PM, Jul 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-22 18:38:03-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In early June, one person died and three people got hurt in a shooting on Pearl Street near Rosa Parks Circle. Then, early Sunday morning, in another part of the downtown area, four people were shot near the intersection of Oakes Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue.

The Grand Rapids Chamber is hearing about it all firsthand.

“We’ve been hearing rising concerns for awhile. I want to say that between obviously the violence, the gun violence, and the homicides get a lot of attention already,” said Joshua Lunger with the chamber. “We’re also hearing a lot of complaints about trespassing, harassment and physical assault.”

Lunger is the vice president of government affairs with the chamber, which has 2,000 members. He recently heard of workers, one at a restaurant and another walking downtown, who were both assaulted during daylight hours.

“I had an employer tell me that for the first time they had an employee saying ‘I don’t feel you’re providing a safe environment and I’m going to work from home until I feel that way,’” Lunger recalled. “That was after an incident happened in the middle of the day. That stuff has a big impact.”

He said the hardest part is comforting their members because there isn’t a quick and easy solution. Recently, he sent a letter to the City of Grand Rapids, telling them about their experiences but also imploring officials to do something about it.

“I’m really thankful our police department, our police chief, the city manager, and his team have been very engaged and communicating readily with us and through us, to the employers. But, it’s not an easy fix. It’s a complicated issue,” Lunger said. “There’s long-term things we need to work on. I think there’s been a lot of investment made. But, in the short-term, people need to know that there’s going to be a response when they need it. I think one of the rising things that we’re hearing in the last few weeks, in the last few months, is that we had an unsafe situation and because of how much stuff is going on in the city unfortunately, it’s taken a really longtime for an officer to respond.”

Lunger said curbing the violence takes everyone’s input from the city to community members and community stakeholders. However, long-term, it's using the federal dollars that have come in to tackle the larger societal issues.

“We got to stay committed to those generational changes. It’s one of the reasons that the chamber loves working on housing issues,” Lunger said. “Housing is a foundational piece of a high quality of life that allows people the opportunity to access jobs [and] build wealth.”

Fox 17 reached out to Grand Rapids Police and asked via email if they’re going to increase patrols this weekend. They stated via email:

"GRPD is committed to providing a safe environment across the city and aligning police resources in a way that accomplishes that in an effective manner."

Lunger said he knows it’ll take time. It just takes everyone’s effort to lead to measurable results.

“People deserve safety where they want to, whether it’s for the neighborhood or for their place of business,” Lunger said. “It’s the thing we want to build upon as a safe city.”