New summer program aims to curb gun violence, charge some at federal level

Offenders caught with crime guns to face federal prosecution
Safe Summer 2023.jpg
Posted at 4:09 PM, May 25, 2023

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten made several stops throughout the state Thursday to raise awareness for a new program.

Safe Summer 2023 aims to curb the concerning, recent rise in gun violence.

US Attorney's Office launches 'Safe Summer Initiative'

The U.S. Attorney’s Office wants to steer people away from picking up a firearm in the first place.

As part of the program, anyone found with a “crime gun,” a gun linked to a prior shooting through ballistic evidence, will be charged at the federal level instead of at the state level. That means repercussions could be much more severe.

“As we head into the summer, with the rise in temperatures comes an increased threat of gun violence,” Totten said.

“The U.S. firearm homicide rate in 2021 was the highest that it had been since 1993.

“For the first time ever, the leading cause of death among our youngest Americans is firearm-related injuries.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office will work with local law enforcement to identify cases involving what they believe are crime guns.

“We know a small number of individuals drives the majority of the gun violence and we know who they are,” Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief David Boysen said. “This partnership sends a clear message to them.”

The city of Kalamazoo has seen five murders in just the last two weeks.

“The desire to reduce gun violence, it’s not to make a lot of arrests. The goal is always to stop gun violence,” Chief Boysen added. “If it’s a deterrent effect, that’s great. If they don’t listen, and we have to focus our law enforcement resources on those individuals, that’s what we’re going to have to do.”

In Battle Creek, three people have been shot to death already this year.

“Especially with the amount and level of violence that we’ve seen here in southwest Michigan, this is absolutely necessary,” Battle Creek Police Department Chief Shannon Bagley added.

Grand Rapids was the U.S. Attorney's Office's last stop Thursday.

Police Chief Eric Winstrom explained how, in a particular case in 2020, one gun was connected to ten different crimes, including a drive-by shooting and culminating in a murder.

"This gun was most likely used by the same individual ten times, but criminal networks don't work like they used to. Back in the days of Al Capone, when there is one gun, that gun can move around to various people within and outside the criminal network," Chief Winstrom added.

The Safe Summer 2023 program applies to Michigan’s Western District, which includes the entire Upper Peninsula and the west side of the Lower Peninsula.

It’s set to run through the end of September.

More A Path Forward coverage.

Check out our list of community resources available to help in West Michigan.

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