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Not since 1993 has Grand Rapids seen so many murders; most by firearm

Of the 26 homicides in Grand Rapids this year, nearly 74 percent involved a firearm. The oldest victim was 60. The youngest, an 8-month-old boy, was beaten to death.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Three deadly shootings over the weekend brings the number of homicides in Grand Rapids to 26 – its highest level in nearly three decades.

Grand Rapids recorded 34 homicides in 1993; much of the violence at that time was tied to crack cocaine.

Grand Rapids police first encountered crack locally in 1985, but it wasn’t until the fall of 1988 that it started to show up with alarming regularity.

Drug dealers from Detroit, many of them teens and young adults, headed to western Michigan to sell crack cocaine, police and court officials said at the time.

Drug-related violence continued through the 1990s; seven years during the decade saw 21 or more homicides.

Only two years during the 2000s saw homicides in the 20s – 25 reported in 2006 and 22 in 2007.

The teen years were much better for Grand Rapids; the most recorded was 19, in both 2011 and 2012. Homicides stayed in the single digits in 2014 and 2018.

What is driving the recent spike in violence isn’t fully known. Nearly three-quarters of the victims were killed with a firearm. The oldest victim was 60 – the youngest – just eight months old. He was beaten to death.

The city through August boasted a solve rate of about 80 percent. No arrests have been announced for the four homicides this month.

Grand Rapids Police Sgt. Dan Adams said he is hopeful a strategic plan Chief Eric Payne presented to city officials on Tuesday will help reduce violence in the long run.

“It could be a multitude of issues, there are so many things going on right now in our country and with our youth and with our families,’’ Adams said. “That’s why Chief Payne has a strategic plan that is neighborhood based, getting right down to the neighborhoods and working with the residents.

"And that’s where I think we’re really going to be able to make a difference,’’ Adams said.

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