Justice

A “gun violence crisis” in Kalamazoo

The number of gun crimes in the city is up 81% in 2020. The pandemic and police violence protests aren't slowing them down. What's causing the rise?

Nine people are dead following shootings in Kalamazoo this year. Half were in just the past two months. Less than eight months into the year and the city has almost surpassed its total for 2019. Beyond that, 42 people have been shot in the city alone since the beginning of the year.

What’s causing the spike in gun violence? An article in Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave says there isn’t a simple answer.

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Last week, Kalamazoo Mayor David Anderson released a statement calling it a “gun violence crisis.”

“Although cities across Michigan and the nation are having similar experiences, we cannot accept this in our community,” he said.

Group Violence Intervention Coordinator Michael Wilder said that while some shootings are linked to other criminal activity, others are just random.

“Some of them are just people getting into beefs where someone pulls out a gun and starts shooting. Some of them are just people sneaking and doing drive-bys,” he said.

He points to online feuds as a source of the some of the shootings. Young people argue on social media and that anger spills out into real life. He said the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation may have exacerbated the problem.

Some people in the community are asking the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety to increase their presence in communities hardest hit by violence.

Wendy Fields is the president of the Metropolitan Kalamazoo Branch of the NAACP. During a city commission hearing Monday she said police need to step up.

“Murderers are arrested and freed because of COVID. We’ve had children shot. That is totally unacceptable. We need police to do the job they are hired for,” she said.

KDPS Chief Karianne Thomas said that their hands are tied because of the pandemic.

“Our tools in the criminal justice system are at a standstill due to COVID – jury trials not starting, jail restrictions, and other things,” she said during Monday’s meeting. “But we know what works.”

But many people agree there is no one answer to halting shootings in Kalamazoo.

You can read the full story here.

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