LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, Lansing Police Chief Ellery Sosebee, Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane and other officials gathered at police headquarters today to discuss the recent outbreak of gun violence.
They say 2023 started off strong, but in recent months, there has been a dramatic increase in gun violence.
So far this year, there have been seven gun-related homicides — three of them in the past week. And officials are trying to figure out why.
“There are so many guns on the street, that everybody is just picking up guns and shooting. Yesterday, we had gun shots because they got into a fight over a basketball,” Schor said.
“We are watching our youth kill one another, each and every day. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for our children. If I haven’t sent a clear message, the message will be sent today: I will charge you as an adult if you are a youthful offender. If you’re convicted, you will be going to prison,” Dewane said.
City officials also took the opportunity to share what’s being done in the community to reduce gun violence.
It’s not something that’s going to change overnight, but a certain part of the Gun Violence Task Force is focusing on the city’s younger population.
Police say two of last week’s fatal shootings involved three teen suspects — ages 16, 17 and 18. All of them are being charged as adults.
Lansing has teamed up with a group called Advance Peace Lansing to get to kids before they get a hold of a gun.
The organization has been monitoring the city’s increase in gun violence during the past five years. It says while stats show fewer of these shootings have been deadly, they are happening more often.
Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said more and more people are turning to illegal firearms as conflict resolution.
Advance Peace is working to reduce those outcomes by involving at-risk youth in its fellowship program using what they call “neighborhood change agents” to engage those individuals and provide alternative ways to deal with conflict.
“We have worked with our community to identify individuals who have been at the center of cyclical and retaliatory gun violence. We eat with them; we travel with them; we talk to them; we mentor them and take them to life skills classes,” said Paul Elam of Advance Peace Lansing.
“What we’ve been able to do is get in through the ears of many of these youth and get them to deal with different ways to deal with conflict.”
“Our Advance Peace initiative is working. It is getting in and turning kids around who have started out the wrong way and turning them around, we need to do more,” Schor said.
And “more” has already started. Advance Peace met Monday with the superintendent of Lansing schools to figure out how to build that presence inside Lansing’s high schools and reach more of these at-risk individuals.