Downtown nightlife violence not a myth in Lansing

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By Meg Dedyne
Listen Up, Lansing staff reporter

Nyasha Makoni and a group of her friends were eating at a restaurant downtown Lansing a few months ago when they decided to check out a few of the bars around that area. As they approached the entrance to one of the bars, she said they quickly thought otherwise when a man ran out of the bar and shot a gun four times in the air.

Nyasha Makoni sitting in her office in the International Center on MSU's campus. Photo taken by Meg Dedyne.

Nyasha Makoni sitting in her office in the International Center on MSU’s campus. Photo taken by Meg Dedyne.

“It was honestly the scariest moment of my life. I saw a bunch of people run out of the bar and then a man ran out and all I saw was a black object that he was holding in the air,” Makoni said. “We started running with the rest of the crowd and then heard the shots fired in the air.”

Makoni, who is a senior at Michigan State University, said that it was an experience that made her decide never to go back to the bars in Lansing again.

“I don’t ever want to put myself in that situation again,”Makoni said. “My friends and I are going to stick to places we have been to before and feel safer at.”

Olivia Weber, also a senior at MSU, said that she frequents the Lansing bars a lot and has never experienced any sort of violence.

“The bars that I go to a lot in Lansing are right across from or near the Capitol,” Weber said. “Those bars are definitely the type that I go to when my parents are in town, because they are generally pretty nice, with good food and are kind of fancy.”

According to Crime Mapping, the area surrounding the downtown Lansing bars had more crimes in a two-month period this past summer than the area surrounding the downtown East Lansing bars. From June 1, 2015 to August 1, 2015, 219 crimes occurred within a one-mile radius of the downtown Lansing bars, where only 122 crimes occurred within a one-mile radius of the downtown East Lansing bars.

According to Lansing Police Public Information Officer Robert Merritt, there is one bar in particular, downtown Lansing that has been a major problem recently.

“There have been problems with liquor control, their cabaret license and complaints about fights down there,” Merritt said. “There have only been two weapons complaints recently and they both have come from this particular venue. But since their liquor license has been taken away, there haven’t been many issues.”

Economics has a lot to do with crime, according to Carl Taylor, a sociology professor at MSU, who is also a sociologist and criminologist.

“When people commit crimes, that becomes their unemployment,” Taylor said. “People become angry when things aren’t going well for them. It has a lot to do with social structures like living below the level of poverty, education and involvement of a region.”

According to Taylor, people suppress things that eventually come back to them later in life.

“Mental health plays a major role in crime,” Taylor said. “There are always people that are going to drift toward the dark side.”

According to Taylor, the type of social events someone attends can also play a role in violence. If people gamble or drink a lot, this can trigger something inside them and cause them to participate in violence, especially using weapons because they are trying to compensate for their own insecurities.

Lansing in general has many violent crimes that occur annually, according to FBI reports. In 2010, Lansing had 1,236 violent crimes occur and 1,204 in 2013. East Lansing had 166 violent crimes in 2010 and 109 violent crimes in 2013.

“Most of the bars around our business downtown are really nice and clean and most of the people that go there are locals or business people,” said Boris Hsieh, whose family owns AnQi Sushi Express. “I’ve seen some violence and fights down here, but it’s almost always when college students come over.”

Luke Werner, the general manager of Tripper’s Sports Bar in Lansing, said that about once every three months there is a serious fight that he has to break up and pull people aside.

Tripper's Sports Bar is located at 350 Frandor Ave. Photo taken by Meg Dedyne.

Tripper’s Sports Bar is located at 350 Frandor Ave., Lansing. Photo taken by Meg Dedyne.

“I don’t have like a set protocol for when someone comes in with a weapon or starts a fight because every situation is different,” Werner said. “The biggest thing is that I have to stop whatever is going on, make sure everyone is safe and get whoever is causing the problem out of the bar.”

Werner said two years ago, he had a case where three guys stabbed another guy with a dart 19 times at the bar and the police wouldn’t come. Werner did the best he could to handle the situation and keep it from happening again.

Kip Greene, a resident of Lansing and a regular at Tripper’s, said he really has not experienced much violence at Tripper’s or the other bars in Lansing over the years.

“You have a few fights here and there but I have never witnessed anything too serious,” Greene said. “I mostly come to Tripper’s for the other customers. We all form really good friendships here.”

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