State police to help Benton Harbor stem violent crime

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON HARBOR – Michigan State Police troopers began work at the Benton Harbor police station this week, in an effort to help a city with a violent crime rate even higher than Detroit.

Capt. Michael Brown, 5th District commander for the state police, said two troopers and a state police sergeant were stationed with Benton Harbor police on Monday in its detective bureau as part of the state’s Secure Cities Partnership initiative.

The initiative was created by Gov. Rick Snyder to support law enforcement efforts in Detroit, Flint and Saginaw as FBI statistics rank them among the nation’s top 10 most violent cities.

Brown said the initiative was broadened to include cities on the west side of the state such as Benton Harbor, Benton Township, Muskegon and Muskegon Heights.

“This is part of our state initiative to offer assistance to some of the communities combating violent crimes,” Brown said. “While it has primarily been used on the east side in cities with high crime per capita, there are other smaller communities that we have offered our assistance to. We still have some logistics to work out, but we are operational right now.”

After meeting with Dan McGinnis, acting public safety director for Benton Harbor, Brown said state police determined the best thing they could do was provide Benton Harbor with assistance in their detective bureau.

The process has been a five-month effort between both agencies.

“We have a detective bureau that does a great job and we have a pretty good conviction rate,” McGinnis said, “but because we are so busy, some of the smaller cases get left behind.”

By the numbers

According to crime stats, Benton Harbor, with a population of 10,020, recorded 236 violent crimes in 2013 and had the highest violent crime rate per 1,000 residents in Michigan, at 23.6.

Detroit, with 688,701 residents, had 15,115 violent crimes in 2013, with a rate of 21.9 per 1,000 residents, and Flint saw 2,026 violent crimes, with a rate of 20.3.

Violent crimes counted included homicides, criminal sexual conduct and armed robberies.

The crime rate is predicated on population numbers, which inflates Benton Harbor’s rate due to of its low population, McGinnis said.

“I don’t agree with the methodology, but at the same time I’m not going to turn down additional help that’s going to help us close cases and get citizens the justice they deserve,” McGinnis said.

Daily operations will remain the same, as state troopers will use Benton Harbor’s systems, network and evidence locker, McGinnis said.

McGinnis said the state’s presence within Benton Harbor will be open-ended.

“We are there to help investigate any violent crimes that occur in the community,” he said. “We have similar operations that have been going on for a number of years with assistance to other detective bureaus. We see this as a partnership with Benton Harbor.”

Benton Harbor police has three detectives, but with the addition of a state detective sergeant and two detective troopers, the size of the department’s detective bureau has doubled.

Benton Harbor will not pay for the troopers’ salaries as they are covered by the state.

Cooperation between the state police and the Benton Harbor Police Department is not new. When crime in Benton Harbor escalated in 1996, Gov. John Engler ordered state troopers to help patrol the city.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@thehp.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on June 16, 2015)

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