Gun violence prevention initiative delayed in the Lansing area

Kyle Kaminski

(This story was corrected at 7:21 PM to correctly identify The Village Lansing’s location.)

WEDNESDAY, Oct 6 – Plans to launch a gun violence prevention initiative in Greater Lansing this month have been put on hold for at least another month while district officials resume searches for a local nonprofit to help carry out the community-based program can help.

Last month, district officials planned to donate up to $ 265,000 to a local nonprofit that could hire six people and start a gun violence prevention program called Advance Peace.

This long-awaited initiative was first introduced to Lansing City Council last year by its founder, Eastern High School graduate DeVone Boggan, to disrupt cyclical gun violence as the city’s homicide rates climbed to their highest level in decades – at least 21 in 2020. That rate has only continued to rise, with at least 22 more reported so far this year.

The new initiative – which also depends on the city of Lansing for $ 240,000 – is set to enroll up to 25 of the city’s potentially deadliest residents for an 18-month mentoring program that offers advice, job opportunities, and other social services.

Advance Peace also employs former criminals known as “Neighborhood Change Agents” who build relationships with suspected gun offenders and encourage their participation in the program – which includes education, travel, case management and therapy.

Participants who are enrolled for the 18-month “Scholarship” can also earn monthly scholarships of up to $ 1,000 for participating in the program, as long as they keep their noses clean.

Thirty organizations were asked to submit applications to the county in September to get the program going by October 15th.

Ingham County’s controller Gregg Todd said he had decided to repeat the initiative for at least another four weeks “based on the number of suggestions received versus the scope and scope of the work.” Todd hopes to launch a new call for proposals online next week – which will delay the start of the program until at least the end of the month, officials said.

One of the only two nonprofit groups to apply to run the program was The Village Lansing, founded in 2019 by Erica Lynn and her husband Michael Lynn Jr.

District Chokesmen were due to follow a recommendation from staff last month and approve funding for The Village, but the resolution, which would have been forwarded to the commission, was abruptly removed from the committee’s agenda on Monday, September 15, without a public statement.

Lynn Jr. is a former firefighter who is suing Lansing City and Mayor Andy Schor on alleged racial discrimination. He is a former co-director of the local Black Lives Matter chapter and was one of the most vocal critics of Schor on his talk show “Merica 20 to Life,” which was recorded in a studio on Cedar Street about a mile from The Village Offices on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Despite unfounded claims by Councilor Kathie Dunbar that Schor met privately with district officials to derail funding for The Village, Todd said he was not aware of any specific concerns about The Village. He also said the group is being encouraged to reapply next week.

“The only concern was that the original tender was limiting the potential bidders, and we wanted to make sure we were including everyone who could potentially do this important work,” said Todd.

Schor said commissioners asked him about his relationship with Lynn and The Village and that he gave an “honest answer” but made no attempt to persuade or dissuade them from doing anything.

“They are elected officials and will form their own opinion,” Schor told City Pulse last week. “I have indicated that I care about what is best for the young people who would be affected by the program and that the Commissioners should do the best they can to reduce crime and reform those in Lansing have taken the wrong path. That is my main concern. “

Todd also said the application requirements could be “changed” to allow more vendors to bid on the project, although he declined to address the possible changes other than saying that he “wanted to make it more accessible, to win additional bidders ”. . “

While homicide rates continued to rise in late July, Ingham County’s Board of Commissioners voted to give The Village at least $ 18,000 as part of a “rapid response” plan for gun violence. That money – a portion of $ 57 million from the US federal rescue plan – was also used for education, public relations, nonviolent conflict resolution services, and more.

The nonprofit was chosen at the time in part because it worked regularly with local families to identify community issues, provided mentoring opportunities for teenagers, and was one of the only community-based groups working directly on the front lines to end a cycle of retaliation from Gun violence in the US interrupted Capital City, according to health department head Jessica Yorko.

Michael and Erica Lynn also helped reach a “ceasefire agreement” over the summer that resulted in a week-long reduction in shootings in Lansing, Yorko told district officials. The nonprofit group also acts as a sort of community center to keep young people out of trouble – including hosting multiple chess clubs for different age groups and funding gun safety courses.

However, convincing Schor to sign a six-digit contract with the organization can prove controversial. Although his government’s latest budget is $ 240,000 for the first year of Advance Peace, Schor said he wants to review a contract before the money can flow.

Schor also insisted last month that he would not allow “personal disputes” to hurt budgets and preventive programs, but that was before Lynn Jr. gave a $ 5,000 award to a musician with a song last week the title “Propagandy Schor” writes. until October 22nd

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