LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Gov. Rick Snyder plans to move criminal cases faster through the courts by spending $5 million on forensic services and hiring 20 more forensic scientists so crime cases can be turned around in 30 days, a Snyder spokesman told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The proposal will be part of the public safety address the governor plans to deliver at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Flint City Hall Annex.
Snyder said the additional forensic scientists would benefit the state’s entire forensic lab system, including the new Metropolitan Detroit Forensic Science Laboratory scheduled to open in spring 2013. The Michigan State Police began handling Detroit’s crime evidence when a previous crime lab in Detroit was closed in September 2008 because of sloppy work.
State police are working to reduce evidence backlogs, but Snyder says he wants better evidence collection at crime scenes, more communication with prosecutors and better tracking of cases that have evidence awaiting testing.
His overall public safety plan is expected to include an additional $15 million for what Snyder has called enhancement of law enforcement.
Snyder spokeswoman Geralyn Lasher told The Flint Journal that the Republican governor wants the state to give Flint $4.5 million so it can reopen its city lockup to free up space in the Genesee County Jail. Flint emergency manager Michael Brown has said opening the lockup is important because criminals are “laughing at the system.”
Snyder noted during his February budget address that Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw rank among the nation’s top 10 in violent crime rates for cities with at least 50,000 people.
“That’s unacceptable,” Snyder said. “We need to put a focus on that … so I believe it’s appropriate to make a significant investment in public safety.”
It’s unclear, however, whether his proposal will do much to help local governments cope with steep declines in police and firefighters during the past decade. Shrinking state and local budgets have left the state with 3,400 fewer law enforcement officers since the terrorist attacks in September 2001, according to the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards.
Michigan lost nearly 15 percent of its civilian and officer law enforcement employees combined from 2001 through 2010, the steepest percentage drop in the U.S., according to a review of annual FBI statistics.
Many local officials point to fewer resources as one reason they can’t get a better handle on crime. Arrests are down in some areas and citizens have to wait longer for police to show up or even file their own reports with police in some cases. So many children have been shot in Detroit recently that federal authorities have announced plans to increase their presence in some of the city’s crime-plagued neighborhoods.
Snyder told reporters last week he plans to propose a “comprehensive answer” that goes beyond simply hiring more police to “deal with the whole cycle of crime.” He has said that includes crime prevention and criminal justice reforms to help former criminals gain skills and jobs. He wants to give state police improved technology so they can do their jobs better.
The governor already has proposed boosting the share of the state police budget paid out of the general fund by 16 percent, which could include hiring more troopers. The total number of troopers assigned to posts had dipped to 949 as of late January, down from about 1,350 a decade ago because of annual budget cuts.
But Snyder has appeared cool to Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette’s idea to spend $140 million over two years to hire 1,000 new officers. Details haven’t been worked out on where those officers would be located.
Democratic Rep. Jim Ananich, a former teacher and Flint City Council member, is among those who say the governor’s Flint address Wednesday should focus on restoring more police to the streets.
“I hope he will take the time to travel around the city and see how an inadequate investment in public safety can destroy a community and make it nearly impossible to work, hire workers and raise a family,” Ananich said in a statement.
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