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Governor says 'smart justice' is key to safe communities, economic growth

Governor Snyder at a press conference

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

LANSING, Mich. - Michigan must attack crime through a comprehensive system of "smart justice" that recognizes the connection between enforcement, prevention and economic opportunity, Gov. Rick Snyder today.

The initiatives are outlined in Snyder's Special Message to the Legislature on Public Safety, which he released at a Flint news conference. The message proposes needed structural reforms in the law enforcement and criminal justice systems, and also ensures that Michigan's firefighters and first responders are fully prepared for their critical public safety duties.

"It's time to reinvent public safety in Michigan," Snyder said. "Our state can't reach its full potential until we tackle the problem of violent crime in our cities. It devastates families, leaves neighborhoods in fear and robs our state of its economic vitality. But we can overcome these challenges through a collaborative, comprehensive and long-term approach. By moving forward with a system of ‘smart justice,' we will hold chronic offenders accountable for their actions, bring peace of mind to community residents, help to break the cycles that perpetuate crime, and unleash Michigan's economic growth.

"The best way to ensure fulfilling futures for our children is to provide them with safe communities. Working together across all levels of the public and private sectors, we'll make sure the next generation of Michiganders has the rewarding opportunities it deserves."

While reported crime rates are down throughout most of the state, FBI data shows that Flint, Detroit, Saginaw and Pontiac rank among the nation's top 10 most violent cities. Several of Snyder's initiatives specifically are geared to these four communities though they may be expanded to other areas over time.

Violent crime in these cities affects local residents and citizens statewide. It hampers economic investment and the ability to attract talent, discourages tourism and drives up insurance rates. A recent study shows that homicides in these four cities cost Michigan taxpayers over $1.6 billion.

In addition to calling for greater collaboration, Snyder points out that Michigan must put more emphasis on crime prevention and intervention. For example:

  • Most prisoners are behind bars directly or indirectly due to substance abuse. An estimated 70 percent to 80 percent of children in foster care are there because their parents are substance abusers, many of whom are incarcerated.

  • There is a significant link between domestic violence and sexual assaults. Nationally, 60 percent to 70 percent of rapists commit an average of six sexual assaults and eight additional victimizations including child abuse and domestic battery.

  • Children who don't regularly attend school are more likely to confront the challenges of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and juvenile delinquency. In 2010-11, Michigan public schools documented nearly 83,500 cases of truancy.

Highlights of Snyder's special message include:

  • Secure Cities Partnership: The governor unveiled his Secure Cities Partnership initiative to support law enforcement efforts in Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw and the roadways connecting them. The Michigan State Police will provide local assistance and coordinate teams of local, state and federal law enforcement officers to direct patrols and provide investigative resources. Snyder recommends that MSP receive an additional $15 million in FY 13 for two trooper recruit schools that will graduate 180 troopers to provide local agencies with the support they need. Because many communities can't afford to wait, the governor is advancing a supplemental budget request to the Legislature so the first trooper school class can start in June. 

  • Federal support: At the governor's request, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office will be active partners in the Secure Cities Partnership. The special agent in charge of the FBI in Michigan will work with Michigan through the federal Safe Streets Initiative and direct resources at the most violent centers of activity within the four cities. Also, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan will provide enhanced prosecutorial support.

  • Economic Vitality Incentive Program: Snyder recommends that lawmakers put a priority on the expenditure of $10 million out of the total $25 million Economic Vitality Incentive Program, which promotes service consolidation and innovation among communities. The $10 million will be invested in local public safety. 

  • Fire and first responders: Recognizing the critical role that firefighters and first responders have in public safety, Snyder is forming an advisory council that will recommend ways to provide better emergency services statewide with a long-term, sustainable cost model. This is especially important since arson is a growing problem. From 2008 - 2010, roughly 43 percent of arsons in the state were in Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw. 

  • Forensic labs: The governor recommends an additional $5 million in his FY 13 budget for the Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division to support the hiring of 20 scientists. Additional staffing will help to reduce backlogs and achieve a case turnaround time of 30 days.

  • Enhanced parole supervision: Currently, 46 percent of all statewide parolees report to parole offices in Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw. The Michigan Department of Corrections will embed a parole officer into each of the local law enforcement agencies that covers these cities.

  • CLEAR recommendations: Snyder is tasking the Council on Law Enforcement and Reinvention (CLEAR), which he created last year, to develop long-term solutions for a variety of public safety issues, including technology and establishing police agency training standards. Snyder also requests that CLEAR partner with key organizations to develop plans for a Neighborhood Crime Prevention Initiative that can be implemented statewide.

  • Next Generation 911: The governor is directing CLEAR to develop recommendations within six months for implementing Next Generation 911, which supports a wide range of technologies available on the average smart phone. For example, users will be able to send texts, photos and videos to dispatchers who can relay the information to emergency responders.

  • Flint jail space: Snyder is calling for an additional $4.5 million to ensure that Flint has adequate jail space to house offenders. This complements a 2011 partnership in which the governor and Legislature appropriated $ 1 million to open more jail space for the community.

  • Prosecutorial support: The governor recommends an investment of $900,000 for prosecutorial support in distressed cities, which a particular focus on Flint.

  • Intelligence centers: Snyder will issue an executive order designating the Detroit Southeast Michigan Information and Intelligence Center as a node of the Michigan Intelligence Operations Center. This improves information sharing across all law enforcement agencies and supports evidence-based policing strategies, which helps police predict where crime may occur.

  • Preliminary exam reform: Police too often are stuck in a courtroom waiting to see whether a preliminary exam goes forward, rather than being out protecting the public. Snyder is directing CLEAR to develop reforms requiring preliminary exam conferences in which the prosecutor, defendant and defense attorney can discuss the charges and possible plea negotiations.

  • Mental health courts: Mental health courts are the best resource available to provide treatment to mentally ill people who break the law. They can require individuals to comply with treatment, which may keep them from committing crimes. Snyder recommends the state invest $2.1 million to continue the eight pilot mental health courts and create a new one in Saginaw.

  • Drug courts: Drug treatment courts address the revolving-door cycle in which drug and alcohol offenders move in and out of the justice system. Snyder proposes a legislative appropriation of $1.25 million to create a high-risk, high-need drug court initiative that expands drug court programming in Genesee, Wayne, Oakland and Saginaw counties.

  • Designer drugs: Snyder supports House Bill 5338 and Senate Bill 789 that will allow the Michigan Department of Community Health director to declare a substance as an "imminent danger to the public."

  • Sexual assault and domestic violence: Snyder will issue an executive order designating the Michigan Domestic Violence Treatment and Prevention Board as the Michigan Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention and Treatment Board. In addition, the current board is working with law enforcement and health professionals to update Michigan's sexual assault evidence kit for the first time in over 20 years.

  • Organized retail crime: This is sophisticated theft and fraud conducted by professionals. The stolen products are fenced for cash or drugs, which are then used to finance other criminal activities. Snyder will work with lawmakers to target these crimes through statutory changes.

  • Human trafficking: Current Michigan law does not adequately address the problem of human trafficking, which often victimizes children. The governor will support legislation that protects victims and goes after the individuals who profit from this crime.

  • Senior protection: The abuse of senior citizens is one of the fastest-growing crimes in Michigan. The Senate has passed a package of bills (S.B.s 454-468) to increase coordination between local and state authorities to expedite investigations, create tougher penalties and implement guardianship reforms. Snyder urges the House to pass the legislation.

  • Prescription drug trafficking: The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) maintains a system for monitoring controlled substances dispensed by prescribers. Snyder on Tuesday signed H.B. 4369, sponsored by state Rep. Lesia Liss, which allows LARA to provide health insurance carriers with the same limited level of data access that law enforcement receives. This helps health providers to identity individuals who are chronically misusing controlled substances. The bill is now Public Act 44 of 2012.

  • Community Ventures: The Michigan Economic Development Corp. will launch the Community Ventures initiative, a public-private nonprofit partnership that will hire at least 1,000 structurally unemployed residents from distressed neighborhoods. Initially, it will focus on Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw.

  • New paths for young people: To help teens from urban areas realize that promising opportunities exist, the governor recommends that $5 million in the FY 13 budget be used to support programs for teens in Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will partner with organizations in these cities and  help teens discover what it's like to help "green" their communities or do a fish survey. This will be a public-private partnership that helps teens benefit from mentorship and the pride of gaining new skills.

  • Removing abandoned buildings: Abandoned buildings often are havens for illegal activity. Wayne County lists nearly 10,000 tax foreclosed properties for auction, primarily in Detroit. Many of these are occupied by criminal operations or simply held by speculators willing to perpetuate community blight in the hope of personal financial gain. The governor proposes a change in state law to forbid individuals with unpaid taxes or who own blighted properties from buying any more property at auction. Also, the governor has identified $3 million in the state Land Reutilization Fund that will be used to clear title on tax-reverted properties in Detroit.

  • Truancy: The Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) will place more social workers within the 135 public schools in Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw. In addition, the governor is directing DHS to require regular school attendance as a condition of temporary cash assistance eligibility. Current policy only requires school attendance for 16 - 18 year olds, which misses our youngest and most vulnerable kids. Snyder wants the policy extended to cover all school-age children. Michigan should join the 29 other states that do this.

  • Prisoner re-entry: Inmates who will rejoin society must be equipped with skills so they have alternatives to crime. Michigan's prisoner re-entry program has been a major contributor to lower recidivism rates. However, it emphasizes programming and treatment as prisoners near the completion of their sentences. The Michigan Department of Corrections will improve the program with a goal of beginning the process sooner and reducing recidivism rates.

The entire Special Message on Public Safety is at