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Gun Violence Shoots Up In Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety

Gun violence is at an all-time high in Kalamazoo. That's the message city commissioners got from Public Safety officials Monday, May 3.

Deputy Chief David Boysen says 13 people were shot to death in 2020, and three have died so far this year. And Boysen says those responsible are getting younger - and more heavily armed.

"This type of ammunition will penetrate a bulletproof vest, will penetrate walls of houses, vehicles - rifles, lasers, they're more armed than our average patrol officer out here with the type of firepower that we are seeing." Boysen says the shooters often flaunt their guns on social media.

"It's not just whether you have a gun now, it's whether you have a gun with a high-capacity magazine. Or, if you have gun, well, then you should get a rifle too. And, OK, you've got a rifle now, you need a rifle with a drum magazine with a hundred-round capacity."

Michael Wilder is the head of Kalamazoo's Group Violence Intervention program. He reinforced the message to city commissioners.

"The youth are not getting their guns from grown-ups. Grown-ups are getting their guns from youth. Thirty-year-old men are buying guns from 16-year-olds - AR-15s."

Kalamazoo suspended its Group Violence Intervention Program in 2020 because of COVID-19. It plans to resume it this summer. But city officials say it will be at only half capacity because of the pandemic. Gun violence shot up last year when COVID-19 sidelined the initiative. The program tries to divert young men away from involvement in gangs and other criminal activity.