5/24/24 - Law Enforcement Kick Off "Safe Summer" Program

file image - Police in West Michigan partner together to fight summer gun violence

Gun violence increases during the summer months and law enforcement want to partner with neighborhoods to keep them safer.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN —(Press Release) -  U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten  announced Safe Summer 2024, a program to address the rise in gun violence that often accompanies the warmer summer months. Under this program, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will federally prosecute all firearms offenders who possess crime guns – namely, guns previously fired in the commission of a crime.

“Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for youth in America and has inflicted immense trauma on communities across Michigan,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “While we will never prosecute our way out of the gun violence epidemic, Safe Summer 2024 is a part of the solution and is focused on deterring and holding accountable those few individuals driving violence.” He continued: “Safety is a civil right. Your zip code should not determine whether you can walk down the street without fear of gun fire. My team and our partners will not rest until every person, in every neighborhood, in every community is safe from violence.”

U.S. Attorney Totten was joined by local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to announce Safe Summer 2024 in a series of four press conferences across the District, with stops in Benton Harbor, Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Grand Rapids. The program will run from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Under this program, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will prosecute all cases that satisfy two criteria.  First, the case must involve a federal firearms offense. The two most common offenses are felon in possession, which prohibits previously convicted felons from possessing a gun, and possession of a machine gun, which generally prohibits persons from possessing fully automatic guns. Second, the case must involve a crime gun, which is any gun previously fired in the commission of a crime.  These criteria will focus federal efforts on the few individuals driving gun violence in their communities.

For example, under Safe Summer 2023 the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Anthony Clarence Pratt, age 24, from Kalamazoo, with being a felon in possession of a firearm and with possessing a machine gun. On August 10, 2023, law enforcement attempted to arrest Pratt on several outstanding warrants as he was walking down the street. Pratt fled but was quickly apprehended. Law enforcement recovered a firearm that Pratt tossed when he ran. The gun was a loaded, .40 caliber, Glock pistol equipped with a machine gun conversion device – sometimes called a “switch” – that allowed the gun to fire fully automatic. The gun had an extended magazine with 17 rounds. Investigators later determined the gun was stolen and was a crime gun, used in one or more previous crimes. On April 30, 2024, a federal judge sentenced Pratt to 7 years in prison. The government’s sentencing memorandum is attached to this release. This case was the first case from last summer’s program to reach sentencing; the remaining cases continue to work through the criminal justice system.

“Gun violence affects us all. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is resolute and unwavering in its commitment to aggressively pursue, identify, and prosecute violent criminals, specifically those involved in gun crimes and gang violence,” said ATF Detroit Special Agent in Charge James Deir.  “ATF’s unique Crime Gun Intelligence and National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) capabilities in conjunction with our well-established mutual partnerships with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, federal, state, and local law enforcement, are fundamental to the success of making our communities safe.”

“The Michigan State Police is committed to supporting our local partners in reducing violence in West Michigan. This announcement from U.S. Attorney Mark Totten is a clear message to the few people in our communities who would illegally use a firearm,” said Capt. Jason Nemecek, Commander of MSP’s Sixth District. “Gun violence will not be tolerated in West Michigan, and prosecution will be swift.”

“As chief, my top priority is keeping our community safe,” said Benton Charter Township Police Department Chief Greg Abrams. “I am a first-hand witness that the U.S. Attorney’s Safe Summer Initiative is a vital cog in the wheels of justice when it comes to relentless prosecution of major gun crime offenders.” Chief Abrams added, “I’m especially proud of the multi-jurisdictional investigation, led by the Benton Charter Township Police Department, that resulted in the indictment of two men who stole over 120 handguns and kidnapped the manager of Dunham’s Sports at gunpoint. The suspects were apprehended in less than 24 hours and all the handguns recovered. The department and our citizens are grateful for all the partnerships that help keep our community safe.”

“Keeping our community safe is our top priority at the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety,” said KDPS Chief David Boysen. “Safe Summer 2024 will send a clear message to offenders that if you choose to be a shooter in our community, we will be working closely with our federal law enforcement partners to make sure you are held accountable. I would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan for making this initiative possible. We are excited to work with our federal partners to keep Kalamazoo safe.”

“The Battle Creek Police Department’s primary focus is the safety of our community,” said BCPD Chief Shannon Bagley. “We will continue our collaboration with local, state, and federal partners to address gun violence. The Safe Summer Initiative is a powerful tool that we hope will deter gun violence and keep our residents safe.”

“The Lansing Police Department is eager to once again partner with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Safe Summer 2024 project,” said LPD Chief Ellery Sosebee. “Gun violence continues to affect our community at tragic levels. Partnerships like this are crucial to stop violent crime trends and we are thankful to be a part of it.” 

“I’ve long said that Lansing has a three-pronged approach to handling gun violence - Prevention, Intervention, and Justice,” said City of Lansing Mayor Andy Schor. “This also must be a multi-level approach with local, state, and federal officials collaborating to combat this issue. By working together, we can ensure that those who commit gun crimes are prosecuted and taken off our streets.”

“We rely on our community's help to look out for their children and neighbors; in order to know what happens, who’s involved, and not tolerate violent crime in their home or neighborhood,” said Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young. “We pledge to continue to prioritize the resolution of violent crime in our community.”

“We are very appreciative of U.S. Attorney Mark Totten’s willingness to review cases of gun violence in our community to see if federal charges could be pursued,” said Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) Chief Eric Winstrom. “On average, GRPD takes one illegally possessed gun off the streets every day. I am grateful for this partnership to help keep our community safe.”

Gun violence is an acute problem across the United States. In 2021, for the first time ever, firearm-related injuries became the leading cause of death for American children, ages birth to 19, according to the New England Journal of Medicine (see also here). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. firearm homicide rate in 2021 was the highest documented since 1993. While the numbers have declined since 2021, they remain high.

Moreover, while gun violence has the potential to impact everyone, recent studies show that gun violence has a disparate impact on people of color.  A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the disparity in shooting injuries among children before and after the pandemic in four major cities approximately tripled as between white children and children of color (Black, Hispanic, Asian).

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