A man beaten on Sept. 2 in what has been described as a “vicious assault” resulting in serious injuries in the parking lot of Crunchy’s.
A shooting on M.A.C. Avenue on Sept. 11 involving at least 31 bullets from at least three different guns.
Are these types of recent events in East Lansing to be considered unusual, or are we seeing a clear upward trend in violent crime?
According to East Lansing Police Captain Chad Pride, “There is an uptick in violent crime. We are seeing it a lot in the downtown area,” especially after dark.
Michael Krueger, chair of East Lansing’s Downtown Development Authority and the owner of Crunchy’s, calls the situation “extremely concerning.”
“It’s a weird time right now,” he told ELi late last week. “Business owners [now] want help from the police. We want police presence in that area during that time [of night] and that’s different from year’s past, so that gives you an idea of where we’re at.”
“We’re concerned for patrons, concerned for our staff,” he said. “We just want to make sure everyone is safe.”
Krueger and others attribute the violence to non-East Lansing residents.
“It’s people coming in from other cities during game days just essentially to cause trouble,” Krueger said, “to even prey on the kids in a way.”
He said he expects the issue to be an item of discussion at the Thursday, Sept. 22, noontime DDA meeting.
Although not on the posted agenda, this issue also rose to the surface at the Tuesday, Sept. 13 city council meeting. Two women identifying themselves as mothers of MSU students called in to ask what was being done about the problem.
“I share the community’s concerns,” Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg said in response.
“But it’s also of a type that seems not random,” she said of the Sept. 11 shooting. “The police don’t seem to think there’s a threat to the community at large….It’s confined to a specific group of people.”
Asked for an update on that case, Pride told ELi late last week ELPD’s Detective Bureau is hard at work on the matter.
“It’s going to take some time,” Pride said. “There is a lot of video evidence, some forensic evidence and one bullet extracted from one individual struck.”
Mayor Ron Bacon also spoke to the issue at council last Tuesday.
“We will address these issues,” said Bacon, adding public safety is a paramount commitment of the city.
“If we want to grow, we have to be able to secure our growth,” Bacon said. “Downtown is a neighborhood so it’s as important as every other neighborhood.”
Bacon said he would “keep the community up to date on everything that is taking place” with regard to strategies and tactics. He promised transparency in policing approaches and “a commitment to a safe experience continuing our traditions of celebrations” of major events like big MSU games.
“We’re well aware of the need for preparation and other things at this time,” Bacon said. “It’s no longer isolated to certain zip codes or anything like that. This is just a common thread that is running through our country right now.”
City Manager George Lahanas echoed Bacon’s remarks, referring to the increase of violence being “like the rest of the country” including with regard to illegal carrying of firearms.
Lahanas said he’s been in communication with Police Chief Kim Johnson, “talking about preparation with our regional partners to make sure we can properly police the downtown,” to make sure ELPD officers “can safeguard the downtown and the whole community.”
On the question of getting help from other departments, Pride told ELi in a phone interview, “What we’re trying to do right now is get as many resources as we can to get people out on the streets. We have met with our partners – MSU, we’ve reached out to the Lansing Police Department, Meridian Township Police Department – and they are on board with assisting us whenever we need them in an emergency sense.”
ELPD is deploying its officers to the downtown late at night in cars, on foot and on bicycle.
“We are going to do whatever we can to try to curb this issue, try to make sure if people are in our city and doing violent crimes, crimes against people, we will do our best to hold them accountable for what they’ve done,” Pride said. “Our detective bureau and our officers on the road and on foot do a phenomenal job of documenting and presenting evidence to our prosecutors’ office when people are out doing these sorts of things.”
Why is there an increase in violence?
“That is a good question,” Pride said. “Was this occurring prior to [the Covid-19 pandemic] and it was just not as prevalent? We don’t know – that could be a possibility. I can tell you we are going to do everything in our power to try to curb this uptick in our community, but it also takes a village to try to curb this as well. From a community sense, a societal sense, it is important that we all do our part to curb what is happening in this violent crime.”
What exactly can citizens do?
“They can call 911 and report what they may have witnessed,” Pride said. ”If they record these incidents with their cellphones, they can send them to the police departments. They can voice that this type of violence is unacceptable. Speak with their governmental representatives.”
Disclosure: Crunchy’s (owned by Michael Kreuger) is a financial sponsor of ELi’s weekly news round-up.
Correction, Sept. 21, 1:40 p.m.: The original version of this article referred to the incident as a “shootout.” A reader pointed out this term means an exchange of gunfire, and we do not know if that is what occurred. The two instances of the use of “shootout” have been replaced with “shooting.” ELi thanks the reader who sent this correction.