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Feds, local police team up to address ‘evil of gun violence’ in West Michigan

KALAMAZOO, MI – People with guns used in previous crimes may face federal criminal charges this summer in Michigan.

With a goal to reduce gun violence, the Safe Summer 2023 initiative from the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan was launched Thursday, May 25, across Southwest and West Michigan.

People who illegally have guns linked to prior shooting crimes found through ballistic evidence will face federal prosecution, U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said.

“The people who wield those guns present an increased threat to the community. By focusing our efforts here, we hope to increase the deterrent against gun violence,” Totten said at a news conference at the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.

“The evil of gun violence in our communities cannot continue,” he said.

Related: Kalamazoo man killed on Mother’s Day loved his family, put others first

Totten also held news conferences in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Benton Harbor to announce the program. Safe Summer 2023 includes Benton Harbor, Benton Township, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Wyoming, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights and neighboring communities.

Federal prosecution will happen for people who have guns previously used in crimes, Totten said. Federal sentencing tends to allow longer time in prison than sentences at the state level, he said.

The threat of federal prosecution will hopefully be enough to deter people from using guns that were previously used in crimes, Boysen said.

Related: Man accused in Muskegon Heights fatal bar shooting turns himself in

The U.S. Attorney’s Office will talk with local county prosecutors’ offices about cases to decide which office will prosecute, Totten said.

“We’ve seen the devastation the escalation of gun violence can do to individuals, families, and our community,” Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom said in a news release. “We welcome this effort to bring the potential of federal charges to the table when possible.”

Kalamazoo sees a small number of people commit the gun violence in the city, KDPS Chief Dave Boysen said. The partnership tells shooters to put the guns down, he said.

Related: Man charged with open murder in weekend slaying outside of hotel

There has been an increase of juveniles using guns, Totten said. Federal law is not really set up to prosecute minors, but part of the reason the program focuses on gun crimes is because people have to get guns from somewhere, he said. The goal is to reduce the number of illegal guns.

“Every child deserves a safe community to play and just be a kid. Everyone shares in this responsibility,” Muskegon Director of Public Safety Timothy Kozal said in the release.

Safe Summer 2023 runs through the end of September.

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