LANSING (AP) - The state would hire 180 more state troopers this year to help fight crime in the state’s toughest cities and take steps to help more inner-city young adults find jobs under crime prevention measures unveiled Wednesday by Gov. Rick Snyder.
Snyder would have the state police coordinate local, state and federal law enforcement efforts in Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw – all of which are among the top 10 U.S. cities of more than 50,000 with the worst crime rates. The teams would focus on violent crime and crimes that contribute to violent activity, such as arson and the organized theft of metals, baby formula and other materials.
Snyder also told those gathered at the Flint City Hall Annex, including police and fire officials, that he wants to place parole officers in the four cities’ police departments to track down parole violators and help ex-convicts avoid returning to prison.
“Our state will continue to struggle until we tackle the problems of our most violent cities,” Snyder said. “The entire state pays the price when tourists are hesitant to visit our cities, when businesses and talented people are reluctant to consider locating in Michigan and when everyone’s insurance rates rise.”
Snyder plans to take his public safety message to Kalamazoo on Thursday, where he’ll tour the Kalamazoo Public Safety Center and discuss his proposals with citizens at a town hall meeting.
Michigan State Police Director Kriste Kibbey Etue said two new trooper schools, including one that could start as early as June, will help not only help state law enforcement, but communities, too. The state will spend about $7.5 million educating the first group of recruits.
“We’re going to bring these troopers right down to the local level,” Etue said after Snyder’s speech. “It’s a win for everybody.”
Snyder also wants the state to pursue crime prevention and intervention. He plans to set aside $15 million in the budget year that starts Oct. 1 to provide job training for 15- to 29-year-olds and ex-offenders in cities with the worst crime.
“We need a comprehensive approach to public safety that offers increased economic activity for our children and their parents in our distressed communities to break the cycle of crime,” he said.
Flint Police Chief Lavern Lock said the approach makes a lot of sense. The cash-strapped city has struggled with increasing violent crime after being forced to lay off large numbers of police officers and firefighters. The city will be able to reopen its jail with $4.5 million from the state proposed by Snyder, but Lock said finding more jobs for people in a city with a 16.8 percent seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate also will help.
“If they’re working and providing for their families, they’re not out committing crimes,” he said. “Statistics show that the more employed people are, the less crime that they commit.”
The state hasn’t adequately helped people who want to work but have little work experience or few job or literacy skills, Snyder said, noting that the struggle has been especially hard for residents in Flint, Detroit, Saginaw and Pontiac.
Snyder also wants the state Department of Natural Resources to offer inner-city youths a chance to work in urban state parks to learn science skills. He also wants to require all school-aged children to attend classes in order for their families to receive welfare benefits. Currently, the requirement applies only to 16- to 18-year-olds.
The governor devoted most of his speech to outlining how he’d like to see the state help communities track down criminals and separate them from those they victimize. Prosecuting more cases involving sexual assaults, domestic violence and systematic retail thefts by organized crime are among his priorities.
Snyder also wants to set aside $10 million of the $25 million in grants local governments can be awarded for offering services more efficiently. Local communities could use the money to bulk up public safety efforts by hiring more police officers and firefighters or finding ways to share those services.
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