Lansing is bolstering its fight against crime. The city has become the latest to join the Michigan “Secure Cities” program.
It’s a partnership that teams Michigan State Police troopers with local city police departments to counter violent crime. Flint, Saginaw and Detroit are among 10 other municipalities that participate in the Secure Cities project. Officials say it’s helped drop the rate of violent crime in each of those communities, and they believe it can happen in Lansing, too.
Michigan State Police Sergeant John Faccio is assigned to Post 11 in Dimondale. He’s been patrolling the capitol city streets for just over a week.
“Generally, we try to work some of the higher crime areas of the city,” Faccio says. “Our role is a little different in the fact that we look for more traffic related things, because a lot of the traffic related things can lead to the bigger things.”
The really big things. Street drugs. Sex crimes. Murder.
The Secure Cities program embeds five state troopers and three detectives with the LPD. The state police won’t be 911 first responders, but will instead reinforce Lansing officers and investigators.
“It will definitely be a help,” says Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. “We’ve already made a dent in terms of violent crime, and we think that this will be an important asset to help us do even better.”
The FBI reports that incidents of violent crime in Michigan have steadily decreased since 2012, when the Secure Cities program began. In March, Bernero quoted those stats in his annual State of the City address, asserting that Lansing’s violent crime rate had fallen nearly 20 percent over two decades.
Still, Bernero says it makes sense to augment the LPD ranks with state troopers. He recognizes that crime comes in fluctuations.
“I think in the last five or six months, there may have been a slight uptick in crime,” he concedes. “If you look at the last year, I think it’s done. So overall, our residents are much safer today than they were 10 years ago or 20 years ago.”
But in Lansing neighborhoods, the perception of safety doesn’t always bear out the statistics on paper.
“At the everyday neighborhood level...I’m personally not feeling that,” says Rina Risper.
Risper is a journalist, an activist and former president of the Walnut Neighborhood Association. She works closely with families who’ve lost loved ones to homicide, including many whose murders remain unsolved decades later.
“From my perspective, I just see a lot more violence,” Risper says. “I’m not going to refute the figure that Mayor Bernero gave, but what I will say is, gun violence exists and it’s impacting so many families and friends of individuals who are no longer here to care about whether crime has gone down or not.”
Risper is encouraged by Lansing’s new relationship with the state police, and hopes more resources will bring faster resolution.
The MSP believes it can deliver on that hope.
The agency points to its work in cities like Flint and Saginaw. In both cases, the FBI recorded double digit drops in violent crime rates.
“They brought down the violent crime rates there,” says MSP Sgt. John Faccio. “So, I’m hoping that our partnership with Lansing Police can help bring them down here as well.”
One Flint resident paints a different picture.
Nikia Wakes is a community organizer for Michigan Faith in Action. She says Flint’s violence hasn’t gone away; it’s only drowned out by the flood of attention on its ongoing water crisis.
Wakes says victims in Flint often take matters into their own hands because they know the police are not rushing to their aid.
“Unless the shooting is happening right now, they take their time coming,” says Wakes. “My house was broken into, and they never once came to my house. They were like, is the person still in there? I’m like, no. You don’t come and take fingerprints, no nothing? It’s like, ridiculous, and they’re supposed to protect us.”
Sgt. John Faccio is taking a conscientious approach to his new duties in Lansing.
“The way I look at it, any violent crime is detrimental to a city. So anytime you can help out, no matter what the crime statistics are, you really want to get in there and help out.”