DETROIT (WSYM) — Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-Michigan) said during a press conference at the Farwell Recreation Center in Detroit that violent crime increased 12% and murders 36% statewide in 2020.
She says the stress of the pandemic is to blame and American Rescue Plan dollars should be used to help.
“As a former prosecutor, public safety is a critical issue for me. My guiding principles here are clear. We are going to bring down crime,” said Governor Whitmer.
Governor Whitmer stood with lawmakers, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit Police Chief James White, and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to talk about her $75 million proposal.
She said she wants to see more money spent addressing mental illness to prevent crime. That means social workers and counselors in schools, at crime scenes, courts, and at hospitals serving crime victims and their families.
Chief White says it recognizes the cause of the problem.
“The research tells us if someone has been victimized by violent crime and they don’t have the requisite treatment they are twice as likely to commit a violent crime,” said White.
The governor also wants to fund more prosecutors.
“Another aspect of this plan is to get these illegal guns off the streets by tackling the backlog in our court system,” said Governor Whitmer.
“Court backlogs must be a focus. In 3rd Circuit Court alone we have almost 3,000 backed up trials that need to be tried,” said Kym Worthy, Wayne County Prosecutor.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and the governor say you can prevent violent crime by helping courts address a backlog of cases that built up as pandemic policies slowed courts down and some crimes increased.
U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell says this is exactly the type of thing American Rescue Plan dollars are meant for.
“This increase in violence is a direct outcome of what has happened in across our country over the last 18 months,” said Rep. Dingell.
Republican leaders say they are eager to see the details of the plan so they can weigh in on it. The Republican Governors Association questioned whether the governor, despite her work in law enforcement as a prosecutor, is committed to fighting crime.
“From calling for the abolishment of ICE to saying she ‘supports the spirit’ of defunding the police, Gretchen Whitmer has failed to consistently stand with the men and women of law enforcement that protect Michiganders every day,” said RGA Spokesperson Chris Gustafson.
The governor will have to work with the Republican-controlled legislature to make it a reality.