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Sales tax fund would help Michigan police fight violent crime

LANSING, MI – Backed by Detroit’s mayor and police leaders in Detroit and Grand Rapids, Democrats in the legislature want to divert millions of dollars of sales tax revenue to fight violent crime in Michigan’s worst-affected cities.

House Bills 4605 and 4606 would create a “public safety and violence prevention fund” to give monthly payments to municipalities proportional to their share of violent crime in the state.

“This will be for new law enforcement in the cities that need it the most,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan told reporters Wednesday, noting violent crime and mental health demands have increased since COVID-19 began.

If the fund existed for this fiscal year, which ends in October, it would have distributed about $100 million. Payments will begin this November if the bills become law.

Hypothetically, if a city accounted for 1% of Michigan’s violent crimes, it would receive 1% of the money. No municipality, however, can receive more than 25% of the state’s monthly payout.

Police departments would not be allowed to use this money to replace existing local funds, said one of the sponsors, Rep. Alabas Farhat, D-Dearborn. The money, he added, will allow locals a “comprehensive approach” so each municipality can address violent crime how it sees fit.

“In my district, a repeat theme is that we love our neighborhood police officers,” Farhat said, “but what our residents are concerned about is that there is not enough of them to properly build those meaningful relationships in our community.”

For Detroit, Duggan and police chief James White want more neighborhood police officers, more people investigating shootings and more mental health professionals working with police.

“We know what the cause of the increase in the crime is. We know what the answers are,” Duggan said. “Up until now, we haven’t had the resources.”

As of Monday, White said, the Detroit Police Department has received 6,137 mental health-related calls this year, as opposed to 5,455 by the same time last year.

White, who added that violent crime is at its worst in his 28-year career, said he would use the money to add to the 19 officers and mental health professionals on the department’s co-response unit and also increase neighborhood police officers from 50 to 100.

Grand Rapids deputy police chief Joseph Trigg told reporters that staffing is the biggest issue for his department and for others across the country. He said the money will help departments make jobs more attractive to prospective officers.

Farhat and Rep. Nate Shannon, D-Sterling Heights, are the sponsors of the bills. They also have the backing of House Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit.

Read more from MLive:

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