Whitmer Made a Promise to Crack Down on Crime—And Data Suggests She’s Keeping It

Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks to new troopers after providing the keynote address for the Michigan State Police's 140th Trooper Recruit School. (Governor Gretchen Whitmer via Facebook)

By Kyle Kaminski

March 22, 2023

Hundreds of illegal firearms have been taken off the streets through a statewide gun violence prevention initiative. And the latest funding plan from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer includes more investments designed to keep local communities safe from crime. 

MICHIGAN—Building up to last year’s general election, Michiganders were often reminded how Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was a former county prosecutor, and how public safety was among her top priorities heading into a second term. It was almost as ubiquitous as fixin’ the damn roads. 

And now four months past Election Day, that renewed focus on curbing crime is paying tangible dividends for Michigan as authorities report a new milestone in their efforts to get more illegal guns off the streets, and out of the hands of those who cannot legally possess them.   

This week, state officials announced that more than 300 illegal guns (and plenty of drugs and ammo) have been taken off the streets as part of Whitmer’s “Operation Safe Neighborhoods” plan to help curb rising rates of gun violence. All told, authorities have now had 4,000 check-ins with felony offenders since September—and seized a total of 354 guns along the way.

“We launched Operation Safe Neighborhoods to get illegal guns off our streets before they could be used in future crimes,” Whitmer said in a statement. Let’s keep using every tool in our toolbox to keep Michiganders safe.” 

Michigan is home to roughly 32,000 probationers and 8,500 parolees—of which, about 20% have been convicted of a gun crime, officials said. The goal of Operation Safe Neighborhoods is to enable more law enforcement officers to keep a closer eye on those who have previous weapon charges, who have since been deemed “high-risk” for committing additional crimes.

The program was wrapped into Whitmer’s $75 million “MI Safe Communities” plan, which was approved by the legislature last summer. It was funded, in part, by federal cash allocated to Michigan as part of the American Rescue Plan to help reduce crime in local communities.

Other components of that plan included investing more cash into local police departments—specifically for training, and to foster more collaboration with the State Police. It also delivered $50 million in hazard pay to local officers, first responders, and state troopers. 

“Michigan families deserve to feel safe at home, school, and work,” Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist said in a statement. “We are also hiring more first responders, supporting them with scholarships and training, and funding the Office of Community Violence Intervention.”

More Public Safety Funding En Route

Whitmer’s administration has invested more than $1 billion into public safety programs since the governor took office in 2019. Her latest budget recommendation also proposed nearly $500 million geared toward keeping local communities safe from gun violence—including dedicated resources to hire, train, and retain local cops, firefighters and EMTs in local communities.

The proposal also included upgrades to public safety facilities and equipment across Michigan, and additional funding to launch new gun violence prevention policies and programs this year.

A supplemental budget bill recently signed by Whitmer also includes about $11 million geared toward helping communities continue to address gun violence for themselves. Most of that cash—about $8 million—will go out in grants to existing programs that are already in place.

READ MORE: New Budget Plan Invests in Michigan Workers—and a Whole Lot More

About $2 million will also go toward distributing trigger locks and gun safety boxes, as well as outreach materials on suicide prevention and other gun violence prevention programs. And $800,000 will create a new Office of Community Violence Intervention Services to support coordinated violence prevention efforts, including more grant funding in local communities. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will award the grant funding.

“We must listen to our community leaders about what works in preventing violence,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a statement. “We also must provide them with the support they need to continue to make a difference. Gun violence and other types of violence are a threat to public health, but we can work together on prevention and assisting people who are affected.”

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are taking their own steps to mitigate gun violence in Michigan.

The House of Representatives is expected to take a vote as early as this week on a sweeping 11-bill gun safety package that would enact new red flag laws, as well as requirements for safe gun storage and universal background checks. Senators approved a bulk of the package on a 20-17 vote last week. If and when it passes the House, Whitmer has said that she will sign it.

READ MORE: Michigan Democrats Are Set to Pass Life-Saving Gun Safety Reforms

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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