Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder showed a commitment Wednesday to tackling violent crime policing and prevention in Detroit, Flint, Saginaw and Pontiac, the four Michigan urban centers that habitually make the FBI's list of "most dangerous cities."
In an address delivered Flint's City Hall Annex, Snyder reiterated a need for a comprehensive and innovative approach to public safety. Flint was chosen as the site of the speech because of its long-standing public safety challenges.
As Flint Mayor Dayne Walling pointed out in his introduction before the governor's address, the city "has had a high rate of violent crime [his] entire life." Flint ranked No. 1 on two "most dangerous cities" lists last year.
Snyder's "Smart Justice" initiative looks to change that. According to the governor, it's designed to rely on data to look at law enforcement, criminal justice system reform and crime prevention with help from all levels of government, as well as other community partners. The "collaborative" approach will focus on those four cities with the highest crime rates -- Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw -- and connect them in a new "Secure Cities Partnership."
The partnership will bring in the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office to aid with investigations and prosecution on the local level. It's meant to serve as "both a model and a pilot" for public safety initiatives in other Michigan communities.
"The solution is not just government, but about all Michiganders coming together to solve these problems," Snyder said.
His stance echoes recent attitudes in Detroit. In the wake of several violent crimes committed by and against young people, Mayor Dave Bing called on families to step up and help prevent crime.
And in a similar policing move, the FBI announced its own crackdown on crime on Detroit's east side last week, particularly stressing lowering the area's high homicide rate.
Some key elements of Snyder's plan include $10 million that will be invested in innovative and cost-cutting public safety strategies, $15 million to the Michigan State Police to graduate an additional 180 state troopers from its trooper academy, and $5 million for the MSP Forensic Science Division to speed case turnaround time.
The governor also highlighted the need for crime prevention, targeting youth and repeat offenders. Teens in the four focus cities will see new programming from the Department of Natural Resources in a bid for youth crime prevention. And the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will offer a community venture program to help the structurally unemployed.
"The best answer to crime is to never have it happen," Snyder said, "and we need to devote resources there."
The governor also called for reform in the criminal justice system, with more parolee oversight and additional resources for mental health courts and drug courts to keep certain offenders out of the corrections system.
While Snyder's primary focus was violent crime policing and prevention, he spoke of solutions -- and funding -- for other safety issues in the state. Drug abuse and truancy were big ticket items, and eliminating blight, senior protection, human trafficking prevention, sexual assault education, reopening Flint's city jail, improving the 911 emergency response system and stopping organized retail crime also made the laundry list.
"This cannot be another of those series of programs where someone stands up and talks a good game and nothing happens," Snyder said.
Despite the thorough list, public questions after Snyder's address brought up other critical issues to both Flint and Michigan residents, including crime spread by lax controls on liquor stores and salvage yards, government corruption and the need for intervention programs for students who are expelled.
For more details on Snyder's public safety initiatives, see the state's website.
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