MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — ‘We’re going to fight, and we will win’ is the mantra Eddie Jenkins is sticking to following a rash of gun violence that’s left six dead in Muskegon Heights since just this past April.
The Muskegon Heights city council member is holding true to his word to meet every week to put an end to the violence as he, the city’s police chief and a handful of residents met Wednesday night to put a plan of action into motion.
It wasn’t nearly as large of a turnout as last week when the community first met. Last Wednesday the crowd inside city council chambers was standing room only. But even with this week’s smaller crowd, those in attendance remain convinced even a small group can be the catalyst to make a big impact on the community.
“It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight,” said Chief Lynne Gill. “I mean, it would’ve been nice if we would’ve come in and the chamber would’ve been overflowing but the reality we know is that’s not how people are.”
The plan unveiled last Wednesday, dubbed ‘Operation Heavy Hitter’ calls for expanded neighborhood watch programs, increased foot patrols in partnership with police, and continued enforcement of city curfews when necessary.
The plan is to kick the increased foot patrols into high gear this weekend in neighborhoods where there are already established watch groups like the Bethlehem Neighborhood Park Association, according to Jenkins.
“I think you start with the mindset, have the mindset that this is our community, this is our home,” Jenkins said. “The only way you respect something is if you own it.”
Jenkins said he’s not convinced the smaller turnout reflects how people feel about the violence issue that’s plagued the community.
“It only takes one mind to get sparked and make a change, only one,” he said. “And we have more than one person in (the meeting), so that little small group is going to change things.”
Longtime Heights resident Mark Glover is part of that group. He’s helped lead the charge with the Bethlehem Neighborhood Association for years and says he’s seen first hand the impact a strongly connected block can have on the surrounding neighborhood. Glover says he’s looking forward to the foot patrols and the increased interaction it will facilitate between police and the community.
“They have some nice young officers that I’m thinking the kids would like to meet, someone they can look up to,” Glover said. “People can have contact with police when it’s not in a stressful or threatening situation.”
Muskegon Heights police recently hired five new part time officers and plan to hire an addition three officers.