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Advance Peace Lansing plans expansion to stop gun violence

Six individuals sit on a panel behind a white table with an MPHI logo. One stands before a podium.
Arjun Thakkar
Paul Elam (third from left) said Advance Peace plans to increase its footprint across Lansing neighborhoods over the next two years.

A violence intervention program to prevent shootings in southwest Lansing is planning to expand across the entire city.

Advance Peace started last year as part of a strategy to target gang-related incidents of retaliation and gun violence.

The initiative, which comes through a partnership with the Michigan Public Health Institute, provides community outreach and mentorship in the city's southwest nieghborhoods for individuals who have been involved in gun violence.

“We're helping them get driver's licenses, we're helping them get off of probation, we're helping them find ways to become employed, we're helping them navigate these feuds that they're engaged in,” said Paul Elam, who leads Advance Peace Lansing.

At a Monday press conference at the Alfreda Schmidt Community Center, Elam said 15 individuals are active with the 18-month program as fellows. Advance Peace plans to serve 60 individuals in 2024.

Researchers with UC Berkeley monitored the first year of Advance Peace Lansing, finding most members of the initial cohort had winessed a gun homicide and had a family member killed by a gun. 73% of the group had previously been incarcerated, according to the study.

"Importantly, after 12 months all Fellows are alive and one had a new gun injury since entering the program. Four fellows were arrested but we do not have any information about whether or not they were convicted," the report mentions in its overview.

Officials with the program said they're hiring staff to expand Advance Peace's footprint to other Lansing neighborhoods over the next two years.

Outreach will expand to southeast Lansing and to neighboring East Lansing next year. Advance Peace plans to add northern Lansing neighborhoods through 2025.

A map of Lansing neighborhoods and where Advance peace is planning to expand its violence intervention program.
Advance Peace Lansing
A map of Lansing neighborhoods and where Advance peace is planning to expand its violence intervention program.

Elam said the program will also place staff in the city's high schools.

"Those peacekeepers will be in the buildings, surrounding spaces, as well as at our athletic events, football games, basketball games, to make sure that we're aware of things that are taking place within those spaces," Elam said.

While the initiative focuses on gang-related violence, Ingham County health officials said Advance Peace helps the government strategize on how it treats shootings.

"Because gun violence impacts lives the same way that an a disease would, it is our responsibility to see gun violence as a public health issue, as opposed to just public safety in that perspective," said Ingham County's Medical Health Officer Nike Shoyinka.

Shoyinka said Advance Peace is helping the county gain more data about the social service deficiencies while the group tracks shooting statistics more broadly.

According to the Lansing Police Department, there have been eight fatal shootings this year, down from 13 last year. Non-fatal shootings have seen a slight increase compared to 2022, with 61 reported so far this year.

As of the end of October, police say there have been 944 emergency calls for shots fired this year in Lansing.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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