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City leaders implore community to end 'code of silence' surrounding recent gun violence in GR

Following 10 shootings in just five days, Grand Rapids Police along with city leaders held a press conference at the location of the most recent incident.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The firing of weapons in the city is up 57 percent compared to this time last year. 

"We are by no means under siege, we are however going to take swift action to end this serious and unacceptable conduct," said Grand Rapids Police Interim Chief David Kiddle on Friday, during a press conference tied to the recent uptick in gun violence. 

The press conference was held at Joe Taylor Park—the location of the most recent of 10 shootings taking place in the last five days. Kiddle was surrounded by city commissioners, City Manager Mark Washington, Grand Rapids Public Schools administrators, nonprofit leaders, Grand Rapids Community College president Dr. Bill Pink and neighborhood association leaders. 

"We love the support. It's not something we get all the time, which we understand the reasons for that," Kiddle said following the press conference. "But, we still go out there and do our jobs everyday, and our officers are fantastic at that."

The gathering brought a handful of neighbors, some on purpose, while others seemingly stumbled upon the event. City commissioners Senita Lenear, Nathaniel Moody and Joe Jones called on their constituents to come forward with what they know about the recent shootings. 

"You have a right and an obligation to point them out and turn them in," said Second Ward Commissioner Moody. "This code of silence saying that you 'Don't want to be a snitch,' I've put too many kids in the ground from the mid-80s to this point and I don't want to bury anybody else's child."

It was a call by city leaders to hold each other accountable. 

"There's been a lot of conversation around officer accountability, and those conversations need and must be had," said City Manager Washington. "We need to hold officers accountable, but at the same time there has to be a duality that we have to have accountability as a community, as well." 

The call to action was not just directed at the community, but at area businesses and educators to lean in for at-risk youth. 

"Our young men in the urban core are our least capitalized investment, but [they are] over criticized and marginalized," said Rev. Jerry Bishop, of Life Quest Ministries. "These are acts of hopelessness."

The first step is to solve the current string of shootings, but long term, Washington says the city will be taking steps to resolve the systemic issues at play. 

"Immediately, we need cooperation from the public," Washington said. "At the same time, we want to let people know there are alternatives, resources, job training programs, education, employment and other assistance and help to keep people from going down these paths." 

This all comes ahead of the city choosing the next police chief, Washington said an update on that could come as early as next week. 

Almost every speaker during the press conference urged community members to come forward via the Silent Observer.

Chris Cameron, executive director of the Silent Observer, said the nonprofit program, which has been around for nearly 50 years, was set up for these types of occasions. 

"It's really our only alternative to silence," Cameron said. 

Silent Observer works independent from law enforcement, so the identity of tipsters is protected from Freedom of Information Acts or subpoenas. 

There are three ways to submit a tip: call 616-774-2345, submit online here or send in a tip through the free Silent Observer app

Below is a list of Grand Rapids-based resources 

Our Community's Children (youth job program) 

City Commissioners

Grand Rapids HipHop Coalition

Baxter Neighborhood Association 

NAACP of Greater Grand Rapids

Boston Square Neighborhood Association

Life Quest Ministries

Emma Nicolas is a multimedia journalist. Have a news tip or question for Emma? Get in touch by email, Facebook or Twitter.

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