By Tyler Austin
Listen Up Lansing Staff Reporter
One of the most important aspects that go into creating a sense of community between a group of people is safety. Creating a space that seems welcoming and safe are high priorities for many people.
According to a survey conducted by city-data.com more than 50 percent of people would only live in a place with good safety and low crime rates. While this is a general want for most people it can prove quite difficult to actually accomplish.
As an example of this, Lansing is a city that claims to have a hard-working heart with the charm of a small town, according to the city’s visitors page. It has all kinds of unique neighborhoods, local businesses and some up-and-coming artists. It is also a place that has fluctuating rates in a wide spectrum of crimes.
Among the ever-changing numbers of crimes reported there does seem to be some consistency, that being that burglary, assault, and theft are in the top five most-committed crimes.
(Find a detailed report on Lansing crime rates at the bottom of this article.)
The main issue with some of these crimes is the effect that it may have on the community, specifically on the victim, according to Michigan State University Criminal Justice Professor Edmund McGarrell.
“It leaves the victim with a sense of violation,” said McGarrell. “It (burglary) is one of the most serious crimes because of the emotional impact it can have.”
But with a crime that can leave such long-term impact on someone, law enforcement has been taking action in preventing these types of crimes from happening in the future. One of these actions being hiring a team of crime analysts to look into the types of crimes, where they are occuring, when they are occurring and who is doing them.
“Everyone needs at least one person on data,” said Robert Merritt, public information officer of the Lansing Police Department. “Without them we would be in the ancient times.”
The team of crime analysts will log crimes reported to dispatch and include information of location, time, motives and any other information that may potentially be important. For example, in the case of theft some added information that may be included other than time and place could be what was stolen, how it was taken and its worth in the community.
With the information that is collected, police can then create specific plans in order to combat any spikes in crime over a specific area.
“We’ve stepped our contacts in certain areas … networking with each other,” Merritt said. “We now have 90 business watches and over 200 neighborhood watches.”
Another method that has been used for theft and burglaries is the deployment of undercover units in various areas that have heightened rates of these crimes. This includes sending officers without uniform, in casual clothes to do surveillance work in the area.
There are crimes however that require a bit more of a proactive form of policing. Violent Crimes Initiative is one example of this, started in June of 2013 it is a combination of several branches of the criminal justice system including federal and state authorities with courts and other communities. Their goal is to reduce the overall amount of violent crimes in the area with federal prosecution and firm sentencing.
Many of the more common crimes though are committed by a person who sees an opportunity and takes advantage of it.
Many police departments, including the Lansing Police use a formula to break down the elements that go into such an incident. These include a vulnerable victim, someone motivated to commit the crime and some type of context where the two come together.
Once these factors are considered the issue then becomes what can be done about each. The issue of time and place is difficult to avoid but what can be done is changing the motivation of the person committing the crime, making widely known the repercussions that come along with committing a crime, and making the victim less vulnerable, placing more staff at a store that is experiencing high crime rates, according to McGarrell.
Some long-term actions that have also been taken are attempting to instill conflict resolution skills in the younger generations. This might include disciplining students with more tactics of “restorative justice,” meaning bringing the two affected parties from a situation together so it can be seen from multiple angles and promote understanding and empathy.
With overall concern for the area the Lansing Police Department have used these skills and tactics along with many more to ensure the overall safety of the community and to great success. As shown in the crime report below crime in the area has gone down significantly within the past few months and is continuing to do so.
Above data pulled from Lansing Police Department’s crime mapping software.