U.S. Attorney Mark Totten, Law Enforcement Partners Announce Safe Summer 2023 Initiative To Address The Rise In Gun Violence
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan
Offenders Caught with Crime Guns Face Federal Prosecution
"Gun violence is an epidemic across America and here in Michigan that inflicts immense trauma on communities,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “This program directs the most serious consequences to the most dangerous offenders. While we’ll never prosecute our way out of this epidemic – and wrap-around prevention programs are important – we must hold violent offenders accountable for their callous actions. I am grateful to our law enforcement and community partners for their support and commitment to making our neighborhoods safer for everyone.”
WATCH: Video message from U.S. Attorney Totten announcing Safe Summer 2023
U.S. Attorney Totten will be joined by local, state, federal, and tribal law enforcement and community partners to announce the program today in a series of four press conferences across the District, with stops in Benton Harbor, Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Grand Rapids. Safe Summer 2023 kicks off today and runs through the end of September, focused on cities in the Western District of Michigan that have the highest rates of gun violence, including Benton Harbor, Benton Township, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Wyoming, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, and their surrounding communities.
“The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) remains steadfast in its commitment to identify and prosecute prolific shooters who commit gun violence with illegal firearms in our community,” said ATF Detroit Special Agent in Charge James Deir. “ATF’s long-standing collaborative partnerships with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, federal, state, and local law enforcement, in conjunction with ATF’s unique Crime Gun Intelligence and NIBIN capabilities, are definitive components towards making the community a safer place for everyone to live.”
“Combatting crime in the most violent areas of our state is only successful if law enforcement and community partners work together,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “The FBI contributes to the enforcement effort by strategically identifying the most violent criminals – those who commit armed robberies of businesses and who lead gangs or criminal enterprises – and to the outreach effort by engaging with schools, youth groups, and community organizations. By doing so, we are working collaboratively to ensure our neighborhoods are safer places for everyone to live and work.”
“The Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety (BHDPS) works hard to protect our residents from violent crime,” said BHDPS Director Daniel McGinnis. “The Safe Summer 2023 initiative will be another key tool as we work to take illegal guns off our streets and hold offenders accountable. We appreciate the law enforcement partnerships that will help provide safer neighborhoods within our community.”
“The Michigan State Police (MSP) is pleased to continue our partnership with local law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan to reduce gun violence in the Benton Harbor region, “said Capt. Michael Brown, commander of the MSP’s Fifth District. “We have committed seven full-time department members for crime prevention efforts, solving violent crimes, and community engagement initiatives.”
“As a county representative for Benton Township and co-chair of ALPACT (Allies and Leaders for Police and Community Trust), I know that we need a two-track approach: prevention and prosecution,” said Berrien County Commissioner Chokwe Pitchford. “Our community violence prevention initiatives are important to keep individuals out of jail, and I am grateful that U.S. Attorney Mark Totten is committed to prosecuting those responsible for crimes linked to dangerous weapons. We need a holistic approach to keeping our community safe and this is one step of many that is needed.”
“Every child deserves a safe community to play and just be a kid. Everyone shares in this responsibility,” said Muskegon Director of Public Safety Timothy Kozal. “The Muskegon Police Department is committed to partnering with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to not only advocate for our community, moreover, work tirelessly to prosecute those that choose to conspire to commit crimes with guns.”
“Reducing gun violence is a top priority for the City of Kalamazoo,” said Chief David Boysen, Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety. “The level of gun violence that we have experienced so far this year is unacceptable. We know that a small number of people drive majority of the gun violence. Safe Summer 2023 will send a clear message to them that if you choose to be a shooter in our community, we will be working closely with our federal law enforcement partners to make sure you are held accountable. I would like to thank the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Michigan for making this initiative possible. We are excited to work with our federal partners to keep Kalamazoo safe.”
“The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office is a proud partner of this initiative. The Safe Summer 2023 initiative comes at a critical moment in our fight against all violence,” said Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller. “With the U.S Attorney’s commitment to prosecute those found with a weapon that has already been used in a crime, we now have a tool that will make a significant difference in removing offenders and firearms from our neighborhoods.”
“The Lansing Police Department (LPD) is eager to partner with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Safe Summer 2023 initiative,” said LPD Chief Ellery Sosebee. “Partnerships and collaborations such as this, make a difference in the gun violence crisis so many communities are facing.”
“I applaud U.S. Attorney Totten and his staff for partnering with us here in Ingham County to hold people accountable who use violence – specifically gun violence – to settle their differences,” said Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth, Ingham County Sheriff’s Office. “We should all hope the initiative is a success, gauged not by an increased number of indictments, but rather a noticeable reduction in the number of shootings.”
“We’ve seen the devastation the escalation of gun violence can do to individuals, families, and our community,” said Chief Eric Winstrom, Grand Rapids Police Department. “We welcome this effort to bring the potential of federal charges to the table when possible. I appreciate U.S. Attorney Totten’s leadership in this initiative and his office’s support of law enforcement as we work to hold perpetrators of gun violence accountable.”
“This is a clear message to the few people in our communities who would use a firearm to hurt another person,” said F/Lt. Matt Williams, Commander of the MSP Grand Rapids Post. “Any gun violence will result in dire consequences.”
Gun violence is an acute problem across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. firearm homicide rate in 2021 was the highest documented since 1993. While the numbers have slightly declined since 2021, they remain high.
In 2021, for the first time ever, firearm-related injuries became the leading cause of death for American children, ages 1-19, according to the New England Journal of Medicine (see also here).
While gun violence has the potential to impact everyone, recent studies show that gun violence has a disparate impact on people of color. For example, a recent study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that the disparity in shooting injuries among children before and after the pandemic in four major cities approximately tripled as between white children and children of color (Black, Hispanic, Asian).
Updated May 25, 2023
Project Safe Neighborhoods