KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Many cities across the United States hit all-time records for homicides in 2021, the majority fueled by gun violence.
One West Michigan city said while numbers were still high compared to previous years, it didn't see a big increase in the last year.
From the beginning of the pandemic until now, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS) said there was a slight increase in the number of shootings for the last year.
In 2021, the city saw a total of 12 homicides and over 75 non-fatal shootings.
"The amount of gun violence is through the roof and everybody’s numbers have increased," said KDPS Criminal Investigations Division Captain Craig Habel.
Gun violence is a huge problem throughout the country, and West Michigan is not immune.
The city of Kalamazoo saw a total of 77 non-fatal shootings in 2021. In 2020, they saw 75. Those numbers don't include homicides.
"We never had this amount of shootings. We have doubled almost tripled some of these shooting numbers in the last two years," said Capt. Habel.
Capt. Habel said there was some good news when it came to the pattern of those high numbers.
"As those numbers rose, the one thing that did change, in 2020 of those homicides, nearly half of those were group-involved, being like gang-related when I say group-involved. This year, we saw that number almost cut in half, so that was a positive trend," said Capt. Habel.
KDPS investigators said they also saw more guns on the streets.
"It is a problem everywhere, but just in our department alone, just our officers, just recently in the last few months, the numbers showed that in a 24-hour shift, we were taking about one and a half firearms off the street," said Capt. Habel.
The guns were confiscated from adults, but even more so teenagers as young as middle school.
Capt. Habel said those teens generally had ties to group-involved violence, being pushed by social media and peer pressure.
"It is dangerous. It is sad. You know, at that age to have a firearm and with all the peer pressure and things that go along with being a teenager, it is not a good situation," said Capt. Habel.
KDPS said they've reinstated intervention programs to get back into the community since the pandemic, making connections and building trusting sources to help curb some of the violence.
The numbers from the last year show it seems to be working.
Out of the homicides in Kalamazoo from 2021, the majority of them have been solved.
"Citizens of Kalamazoo are fed up with the gun violence, and I think that reflects in this year’s numbers. We solved eight of our 12 homicides so that is a pretty good number," said Capt. Habel.
KDPS said citizens were more cooperative last year, calling in tips and sharing video evidence to help them solve cases.
Investigators are hoping in 2022 that bright light of cooperation continues to get those numbers down.