Flint declares a state of emergency over gun violence
Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley has declared a state of emergency in the city due to gun violence. According to the mayor, there have been 158 non-lethal shootings in the city in 2021—a nearly 80% increase from 88 in 2020.
The declaration means the city can use federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to fight gun violence. The city of Flint is set to receive $94 million of the federal $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
Neely says the steps the city is taking to address gun violence are based on feedback taken from Flint residents.
"We need more officers, we need to retain more officers, we need to be able to have better community engagement, providing grants, we need more youth engagement, all these things are a baseline to be able to reduce crime in a very aggressive way, and that’s why we declared an emergency," Neeley said.
Neeley issued an executive order effective July 23. The order, broken down into six parts, outlines a plan to address gun violence in Flint, which the mayor called "a public health crisis."
The first part establishes an emergency response team, or ERT, to address both mental health issues and criminal justice issues. The team will coordinate with the Flint Police Department, and will be comprised of mental health professionals, medical professionals, and social workers.
The second part of the executive order establishes partnerships with community programs to address the root causes of gun violence. This includes crime watch grants, one-stop shopping services to be provided in accessible areas so needs are met, and mini stations set up throughout the city to meet these needs.
The third part of the executive order establishes programs specifically to address gun violence among youth. It emphasizes year-round programs that promote skill building and job operations, as well as safety officers for playgrounds.
In order to be proactive about breaking the cycle of violence, the mayor says it's crucial to invest in, and support, the city's youth.
"We must start with our young people. We will be making substantial investments in our youth program and youth activities, to interrupt the cycle of violence very early on. So we will be making investments in our community centers, our resource centers, all throughout the city of Flint," he said.
The fourth part of the executive order addresses resources for the police department. Neeley says the plan is to create 20 new long-term positions within the department, as well as to update technology and surveillance equipment.
The fifth part establishes attorney and victim advocacy for those who are impacted by gun violence.
The sixth part creates crime suppression grants for small businesses.
The next step will be for Flint's city council to approve to executive order in the next week. Neeley says he's confident council will work quickly because of the urgency of the issue. He also says the city needs the cooperation of the whole community to actually address the problems of gun violence.
"We're stronger together than we are. Many people are afraid of retaliation, retaliatory type of activity against them or their families, and sometimes rightfully so. No one wants to be a victim of crime. But if we if we connect with our teams, if we connect with one another... we know we will make a difference," he said.