Flint residents expect safer streets to result from $1 million grant

Flint residents expect safer streets to result from $1 million grant

Hamilton Community Health Network has received a  $1 million federal grant to help reduce crime and increase public safety in 1st and 3rd Wards.

The grant, from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, will support the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program and North Flint Revitalization Initiative.The Hamilton Community Health Network, which has been providing services in Flint for more than 15 years, will oversee the grant.

Hamilton Community Health Network CEO Clarence Pierce commented that the $1 million grant funding will go a long way in creating a community that’s better and safer for everyone. Photo by Stacy Swimp

“Now that we have the grant, the real work begins,” says Clarence Pierce, CEO of Hamilton Community Health Network. “Implementing this grant is going to be the key now. We will be strategizing to put things in place with residents and the police department, and other partners to work in a collaborative way to make this community safer and better for everyone.”

The goal is to bridge the gap between law enforcement and residents. The grant will help add more police officers to help keep the neighborhoods safe.

That is welcome news to the Flint Police Department, which is expected to work with the North Flint Revitalization Initiative and local business community “to help strengthen Flint’s neighborhoods, primarily on the north end,” according to a news release.

Flint’s police department is now down to under 120 officers. There were more than 400 officers on the force just a few years ago.

“We are definitely going to need more officers,” says Police Chief Timothy Johnson. “This grant is going to go a long way toward helping us develop a greater presence out there.”

Johnson, who is known for having an open-door policy for local citizens to address their concerns, also praised Flint residents who been who have been volunteering to be reserve officers when the city’s police force was steadily shrinking in size.

Reginald G. Flynn, pastor of Foss Avenue Baptist Church, is also hopefulthe grant will help increase police presence and foster a safer community. He has been a leading voice pursuing such an initiative for the past 10 years.

While the statistics still paint a gloomy picture about the nature of violence in Flint, they fail to portray the entire picture.

Flynn, who is also founder and president of the North Flint Reinvestment Corporation, is cautiously optimistic. While $1 million is not a significant amount of funding long-term, he hopes it might be leveraged to help obtain additional funding from federal and state resources to increase public safety.

Flint City Councilman Eric Mays, who represents the 1st Ward, says the Mott Foundation has been in conversation with the city council about public safety and the council has asked the foundation to contribute $4 million towards public safety. Mott is working with the city council to become a viable partner in the effort to make the community safer.

Mayor Karen Weaver praised the collaborative efforts and unity of resident that brought the initiative to fruition..

“We love each other in this community. We are excited to work together. That’s what we must do. It’s going to take all of us to make this community better,” says Weaver, who grew up on the north end of Flint.

Congressman Dan Kildee, who was instrumental in getting the grant, expressed gratitude to the Hamilton Community Health Network for it leadership to implement the public safety grant.Earlier this year he sent a letter Denise E. O’Donnell, director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the U.S. Department of Justice, supporting Hamilton’s application.

“I look forward to following the positive progress this federal grant makes for Flint’s families and neighborhoods,” Kildee says.

Reginald G. Flynn, pastor of Foss Avenue Baptist Church and president of North Flint Reinvestment Corp., has been a leading voice in advocating a neighborhood safety initiative. Photo by Alvin Brown

According to recently released FBI statistics, Flint has the ninth-highest rate of violent crime in the US, with nearly 792 violent crimes reported per 50,000 residents. That is down from 2010, when Flint was ranked the most violent city in the US with more than 2,400 violent crimes, the most per capita of any city of more than 100,000 residents.

While the statistics still paint a gloomy picture about the nature of violence in Flint, they fail to portray the entire picture.

They don’t report the passion residents, officials, and law enforcement share toward making the city a safer place to live. Hundreds of private citizens volunteer with the local police department, making their own safety a matter of personal responsibility.

There is an old saying, “I may not be what I want to be, but I definitely not what I used to be.”Nothing can be truer for the City of Flint.

Stacy Swimp is special projects coordinator and a columnist for TheHub Flint. His commentaries have appeared in the Washington Times, Miami Times, Orlando Sun, Philadelphia Tribune and Buffalo Criterion. He has appeared as a guest on Sirius satellite radio, WHO-Des Moines and KDKA-Pittsburgh, black media such as WVON-Chicago and Lee Bailey’s EURweb in addition to the Westwood One radio network. You may contact him at stacy@stacyswimp.org.










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