GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (June 21, 2014) – Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom said in the last ten years, serious crimes have gone down across Grand Rapids by one third. Yet despite this downhill trend, downtown has been host to serious shootings and violent fights this past week.
Days after the latest string of violence in downtown Grand Rapids, some business owners said an increased police presence is making things feel safer.
“You don’t feel like you’re super outnumbered, and there’s a million people out there to us, like one in here,” said David Cobb, manager at Menna’s Joint on Ionia Avenue SW.
Cell phone video taken Tuesday night went viral after it caught what looks like an unprovoked attack near Rosa Parks Circle. Then just hours later, two teenagers were shot in front of Buffalo Wild Wings on the corner of Fulton and Ionia, leaving a 16-year-old in critical condition.
This week the Downtown Safety Partnership between the City of Grand Rapids, business leaders, and the Grand Rapids Police Department formed to focus on tightening security.
“As business owners we owe it to our consumers and to our staff to create a safe environment,” explained Mike Stevens, owner of Founders Brewing Company.
Stevens told Fox 17 that he hired a director of safety and put in a new security system with more surveillance cameras several months ago. On Saturday, amidst a crowd of 7,000 at this year’s Founder’s Fest, Stevens said a main concern is better lighting for Founder’s back parking lot.
“At three, four in the morning when our staff is walking to their vehicles it’s a dark environment. So we’re doing everything we can in terms of putting in cameras and having staff walk together and implementing polices that keep people more together,” said Stevens.
City officials said the Downtown Safety Partnership will promote sharing business’ surveillance footage, lighting parking lots, increasing police patrols, and stricter rule enforcement. For instance, some businesses agreed to make a commitment to keep those under 21 without a guardian outside of their businesses after 9 P.M.
“As far as police presence goes, it’s getting upped a lot. It’s really noticeable: I worked Thursday night, and there’s a lot more police patrolling on foot, then driving by in cars back-and-forth. It’s really awesome; I noticed a huge difference,” said Cobb.
Cobb attested to the fact that they see a lot of fights outside of businesses on Ionia Avenue SW. Cobb said Menna’s Joint plans to spend several hundred dollars on lights for the nearby parking lot and front awnings to help with crowd control.
“There’d be a lot of times where there’d be a huge crowd of people directly in front of McFaddens, pouring over into the side, and you’re just wondering where’s the order? You can’t expect McFaddens door guys to do that, they don’t get paid enough to control a mob,” added Cobb.
Since Sunday June 15 when the shots were fired outside of McFadden’s Restaurant and Bar, according to Crimemapping.com, there have been almost 150 crimes in Grand Rapids; that includes at least 34 crimes within a one-mile radius of downtown.