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    The City Commission got its first glance at a comprehensive list of more than 50 robust recommendations aimed at reducing violence in Grand Rapids Tuesday morning.  The 25-page report, submitted by the 16-member SAFE (Safe Alliances For Everyone) Task Force, introduces new community crime prevention initiatives and identifies several crime prevention strategies that serve as “best practice models” across the country.  The report also suggests ways that the City and Police Department can improve collaborative efforts with neighborhood associations, churches, schools and other organizations.

     In May 2014, Mayor George Heartwell announced the formation of the Task Force to research national trends and innovative solutions in order to address violence in Grand Rapids neighborhoods, particularly involving youth and guns. Lead and chaired by Third Ward City Commissioner Senita Lenear, the SAFE Task Force includes citizens impacted by violence, neighborhood association members, non-profit representatives, mental health professionals, faith-based leaders, experts within higher education, law enforcement officers and people with specific knowledge of violence-related issues.

    The group met 13 times over the course of the past 10 months to arrive at recommendations formed by examining local and national level violence reduction programs, local police calls for service data and from ideas expressed by residents (including alternative community voices) during several community conversations.

    Prior to getting started, the SAFE Task Force identified individuals between 15-24 years of age as being the group most impacted by acts of violence.  It also formed four goals: align and share information on what currently exists regarding neighborhood violence, support programs based on valid research to fill existing gaps, advocate for community empowerment and voice, and promote city policy through the recommendations.

    The SAFE Task Force prioritized its findings into short-term (6-12 months), moderate-term (1-2 years) and long-term (2-5 year) recommendations centered on the acronym P.E.A.C.E.:

    P – Prevention Investments, aimed at the prevention of violence

    E – Eliminate Violent Acts, focused on intervening and targeting those who commit violent acts

    A – Activate Economic Opportunities, enhancing the economic and income status of teens and young adults

    C – Community Engagement, Education and Empowerment by promoting information and community engagement

    E – Effective Positive Change in Public Institutions by revising City, State and Local policies

    The wide-ranging recommendations include a variety of measures, from educating the public on practical living tools; promoting workforce development; and increasing recreational activities, to conducting mental health training in schools.  The complete report, including the list of 51 specific recommendations, can be found at

    According the SAFE Task Force Chair Lenear, although now complete, the study took a few months longer than anticipated because of the personal involvement and extreme interest of the Task Force membership and also by national events that shaped police and community relationships here at home.  The fact that several of the recommendations initially penned by the group have already been put in place in recent months by the City, Commission and by the Police Department, show the scope and breadth of work done by the Task Force.

    “We went bold and big,” Commissioner Lenear said of the suggestions.  “I knew our group would come up with comprehensive recommendations, but we came up with more bold recommendations than I ever thought we would.

    “We brought together a diverse group of people to examine these issues.  We all share a passion for reducing violence in our neighborhoods and want to make a difference.  The Task Force members all really feel that any one act of violence is simply too many and so we examined the broader picture, of not just what tools can we employ to fight crime, but also what would we do on the preventative side to curb crime and violence in our community.”

    Lenear explained that the multifaceted recommendations not only call for work to be done by the government organization, but also by several community partners who were at the table and those that will be called upon for assistance in enacting several recommendations.

    Mayor George Heartwell said the work that the Task Force has turned in is substantial and a great roadmap designed to continue the further reduction of Grand Rapids’ already historic low crime rate.

    “I’m very proud of the work that this group has made in convening the neighborhoods and institutional leadership around a response to violence in our neighborhoods, looking at issues such as gangs and guns and developing a coordinated crime prevention strategy that better aligns the community resources with law enforcement efforts in order to make our neighborhoods even safer places to live,” he said.

    The SAFE Task Force Membership includes: Commissioner Lenear  (Chair), Commissioner Ruth Kelly, Commissioner Walt Gutowski, Lynn Heemstra

    (Our Community’s Children), Marian Berrera-Young (Baxter Neighborhood Association), Sergeant Geoff Collard (Grand Rapids Police Department), Scott Gilman (Network 180), Alysa Gregory (Target Age Group Representative), Andy Guy (State of Michigan Office of Urban Initiatives), Larry Johnson (Grand Rapids Public Schools), Willie Patterson (LINC/Stop It!), Julie Ridenour (Steelecase Foundation), Raynard Ross (GRCC/GRPS/Cure Violence Researcher), Lindsey Ruffin (Eastown Community Association), Chris Sain (Grand City/GRCC), Dr. John Walsh (Grand Valley State University) and Milindi Ysasi-Castanon (Spectrum Health/Hispanic Center).

    The complete report can be downloaded by clicking on the PDF image below: