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Study shows fewer crimes commited by Grand Rapids youth

The Grand Rapids Juvenile Offense Index Report was released Thursday. It was produced by Our Community's Children (a partnership between the city and Grand Rapids Public Schools) with Grand Valley State University and Grand Rapids Police.

Most teens who commit crimes do so after school. So there's been a huge push in Grand Rapids to invest in afterschool programs to keep kids busy and out of trouble. Officials with the city and Grand Rapids Public Schools were sure it was helping. "But we didn't have any way of tracking that," said Lynn Heemstra. She directs Our Community's Children. The study shows afterschool programs - particularly those with more adults - are working. "Even though their behaviors may not show that, they definitely are saying mom, dad, caring adult whoever that might be - we really want you involved in our lives and interested in what we're doing," Heemstra said.

The report says the number of crimes committed by young people in Grand Rapids is down 25%. There were 19% fewer 8 to 16 year-olds committing crimes over the last 4 years.

Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk says neighborhood associations and officers assigned to specific neighborhoods are using detailed data from the report. "It's hot spot policing, you know looking at where are the problems? What time of day? And then trying to dedicate our limited resources to those specific problems so that we can have a larger impact," Belk said.

Most of the contact older children and teens have with the police is not because they've committed a crime. It's over domestic issues, curfew and threats to run away from home.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.