KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Kalamazoo City Commission is working to reduce gun violence by approving $100,000 in funding to support their reduction efforts.
Just this year alone, Kalamazoo has seen a 71% increase in gun-related homicides compared to last year. It has also seen a 122% increase in non-fatal shootings.
Kalamazoo's Public Safety Chief said this funding was exactly what was needed.
"One is too many," said the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Vernon Coakley.
Kalamazoo is experiencing an increase in gun violence, similar to other cities across the country.
"We as a community have to move forward in order to stop gun violence to keep our community safe. That is where we are going. That is the goal to keep our city safe," said Chief Coakley.
Preston Daiden has lived in the Northside neighborhood for 15 years and said the violence has to stop, noting this year has been way worse than past ones.
"They are at home. They are bored. They have nothing else to do but be violent," said Preston Daiden, who lives in the Northside neighborhood.
Just this year, the Assistant Chief of Public Safety said there have been 12 gun-related homicides and 71 non-fatal shootings. For a map, click here.
In 2019, he said there were 7 gun-related homicides and 32 non-fatal shootings.
That's why they're taking a multi-faceted approach with the funding, splitting it evenly between key areas.
Community Healing: $25,000
With each act of violence, the need for mental health supports deepen. Funds are proposed to support community efforts underway to improve access to culturally competent mental health professionals for community members impacted by gun violence.
Housing Rehabilitation: $25,000
There have been a number of homes that have been severely damaged by gunfire – leaving residents to deal with costly repairs in addition to trauma from the incident. Funds are proposed to support the development and implementation of a pilot for income eligible residents to receive assistance for home repair after a shooting has occurred.
Increased Security Systems: $25,000
The City has been researching security camera initiatives in which municipalities partner with a company to improve access to cameras through discounted, bulk pricing and a streamlined purchase process. Security cameras, video doorbells and alarm systems for residential use can link smartphone users to their devices. Through this technology, residents have the capability to see visitors through their smartphones, tablets or desktops.
Block Club Project: $25,000
Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo (SPK) is an initiative that originated with the Kalamazoo City Commission’s decision in 2014 to make poverty reduction a key priority for the city. Under the leadership of the City Commission, Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo was established to place emphasis on more broadly shared prosperity, not just the alleviation of poverty. In an attempt to realize this objective, SPK identified three distinct but interrelated goals to carry out its work: 1) increase access to good jobs; 2) ensure the healthy growth, development, and learning of all our youth; and 3) create strong families.
"We want to get more individuals involved in helping us reduce crime where they live. Those block clubs are going to be a key communication tool in sharing information between neighbors, get them more involved in helping to again make their neighborhoods a safer place," said Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Assistant Chief David Boysen.
In addition to that, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety said additional technology like ring doorbells will help.
Specifically benefiting target neighborhoods including the Northside, Edison and the Eastside where there have been increasing numbers of violent incidents due to poverty.
"When people have videos, they are very willing to share those with us. Especially with cameras such as Ring, they can share them with us anonymously. We have solved several shootings and homicides based on those videos that citizens voluntarily share with us," said Assistant Chief Boysen.
"Let’s work together, get it done so that we can all have prosperity in our neighborhoods to stay safe," said Chief Coakley.
The Kalamazoo City Manager will provide periodic updates to the commission on the program development and implementation.
The funding allocated is coming out of the 2020 General Fund Budget.
For more information on the initiative, click here.