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Governor Pledges to ‘Step Up’ Public Safety in Michigan’s Hardest Hit Communities

By Leischen Stelter

Governor Rick Snyder is facing a lot of big problems as the state of Michigan continues to flounder on several fronts. Its overall unemployment rates remain above national averages, hovering around 9%, but several of its cities are faring much worse. In Detroit, foreclosures dropped by 31% in 2011, but remain at a rate of more than 2.5 times the national average. Foreclosed homes in Detroit sell for, on average, just over $11,000, compared to a statewide average of $85,000, according to RealtyTrac.

During a March 7 speech in one of Michigan’s most troubled cities, Flint, Governor Snyder argued that problems with housing, unemployment and other social issues can’t be solved until the state improves its public safety. (You can watch the full presentation here.) “One of the fundamental issues is public safety and the basics of quality of life,” he said. “If people can’t feel safe and don’t feel comfortable sending their kids to school or going to the grocery store, it’s hard to say how we’re going to build on those other platforms … When we look at how Michigan is doing, we’re not doing well enough on public safety, we need to step it up.”

Snyder proposed 34 initiatives to improve public safety, which are mostly focused on four of Michigan’s most troubled communities: Flint, Saginaw, Detroit and Pontiac. These four cities rank among the nation’s top 10 most violent cities, according to FBI data, with approximately 2,000 violent crimes per 100,000, which is four times as many violent crimes as the national average, said Snyder. “We have the data to tell us where to focus,” he said.

One of his first initiatives is the development of the Secure Cities Partnership initiative. This program is designed to support law enforcement efforts in these cities and the roadways connecting them. The Michigan State Police will take the lead and provide local assistance. They will also coordinate teams of local, state and federal law enforcement officers to direct patrols and provide investigative resources, according a press release issued by the Governor’s office.

To support this effort, Snyder recommends providing Michigan State Police with an additional $15 million in FY 13 for two trooper recruit schools that will graduate 180 troopers. Because many communities can’t afford to wait, the governor is advancing a supplemental budget request to the legislature so the first trooper school class can start in June.

Also in support of law enforcement, the Governor has proposed an additional $5 million in his FY 13 budget for the Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division to support the hiring of 20 scientists. Additional staffing will help to reduce backlogs and achieve a case turnaround time of 30 days, down from the current backlog of 57 days, he said. In addition, he will create an academy to educate law enforcement about evidence collection and also to improve the partnership between law enforcement and forensic scientists.

 He also proposes embedding parole officers in police departments to help mitigate the growing issues law enforcement has with parolees.

 The governor is also tasking the Council on Law Enforcement and Reinvention (CLEAR) to develop long-term solutions for a variety of public safety issues, including technology and establishing police agency training standards. CLEAR will also assist with the development of recommendations within six months for implementing Next Generation 911. This system will enable dispatchers to receive texts, photos and videos and relay that information to emergency responders.

 Other proposals include:

–        Establish drug courts

–        Establish mental health courts

–        Target organized retail crime groups

–        Combat human trafficking issues

–        Combat prescription drug trafficking

–        Remove abandoned buildings

–        Address truancy issues in schools

–        Improve prisoner re-entry programs

The message from the Governor was clear: Improving public safety will pave the way for Michigan to deal with its other countless challenges. But is this just more talk and empty promises or do you think the Governor means business with these new public safety initiatives?

Leischen Kranick is a Managing Editor at AMU Edge. She has 15 years of experience writing articles and producing podcasts on topics relevant to law enforcement, fire services, emergency management, private security, and national security.

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