Multiple agencies report increases in violent crimes in Macomb County

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published June 20, 2021

 Several Macomb County agencies are reporting increases in violent crimes in 2021. Fraser has seen a big increase in crimes involving firearms.

Several Macomb County agencies are reporting increases in violent crimes in 2021. Fraser has seen a big increase in crimes involving firearms.

Photo provided by the Fraser Department of Public Safety

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MACOMB COUNTY — Multiple law enforcement agencies in Macomb County are reporting increases in violent crimes since the start of 2021.

Fraser interim Director of Public Safety Mike Pettyes said he has seen a shocking increase in the number of incidents related to firearms in the community.

“I get updates every week from our shifts and noticed that we were getting a lot more incidents from firearms,” he said. “Our internal stats said we had nine incidents involving firearms in 2020, and we’ve had 24 this year so far. Our property officer left for a week, and when he came back, he had seven firearms to process. It really hit me that we had a lot of calls that were illegal possession of a firearm or armed robbery or finding a stolen firearm.”

Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido confirmed the rise in violent crime throughout the county and said that COVID-19 is likely a factor.

“We’re seeing a lot more weapon crimes, not just firearms. We had two or three today alone using knives,” said Lucido. “When we use the word ‘weapon,’ it can be any item or object that can cause a person great bodily harm. This could even count a dog as a weapon if it were trained properly. In addition, we’ve seen this violence stemming from the pandemic. We have been sheltered in place and not out in our normal fashion for a long time. There has been more drug and alcohol use during the pandemic. There are psychological effects of being stuck in place or losing loved ones. It can consistently add issues for people. Even being stuck in the same place with the same people can increase stress. We’ve seen more domestic violence for the same reasons.”

Pettyes said that COVID-19 has also reduced the ability for departments to coordinate the way they normally would, which could potentially hamper any sort of combined response to such trends.

“I don’t know where this is all coming from,” he remarked. “I don’t know if it could be related to COVID, but it seems things are changing. I haven’t discussed this with other chiefs. We haven’t had the in-person meetings we usually do because of the pandemic, so I’ll be interested to compare notes with other chiefs when we do again.”

Pettyes added that there seem to be increases in violent crime across a wide range of criminal behaviors.

“In May, we had numerous shots fired at a business; we’ve seen a lot of road rage with people pulling guns on each other,” he said. “We haven’t had any road rage incidents where shots were fired, fortunately, but it seems like people are resorting to that sort of thing more. We’re also finding guns that people shouldn’t have because the weapon is stolen or it’s a juvenile in possession of a firearm.”

However, not all communities in the Macomb County area are reporting increases in gun incidents. Some said they are remaining roughly the same as last year.

“There is no statistical data to support that gun crimes have gone up in the City of Roseville,” Roseville Police Chief Ryan Monroe said in an email. “All the numbers suggest they have stayed relatively the same or slightly declined. I will say that the number of people who have applied for a CPL, or concealed pistol license, has skyrocketed prior to the last election.”

Other departments have said that while firearm-related crimes have remained steady or even decreased, they are showing increases in other sorts of violent crime.

“There has been a reduction in our violent crime such as homicide and robberies in 2021 compared to 2020. There are no significant increases compared to last year,” Eastpointe Director of Public Safety George Rouhib said in an email. “Our assaults have increased by 38.5% compared to last year at this time. Domestic violence is on the rise. Not being able to go outside and be part of normal activities creates stress that leads to potential assaultive behavior.”

Lucido said that domestic violence is on the rise and that COVID-19 has likely been a factor, with people being stuck in close proximity with one another. He added that, ironically, it has caused some other crimes to decrease.

“Caseloads are up in certain areas such as domestic violence and violent crimes,” he said. “We see decreases in other crimes like drunk driving since bars were closed and less people were going out or drinking at a friend’s house. We saw less traffic crimes for the same reasons.”

He made sure to note that COVID-19 cannot be fully blamed for such increases and that law enforcement has to take a proportionate response to these trends.

“We’ve seen a lot more in regard to violent and assaultive crimes since March of last year,” said Lucido. “It’s caused by a multiplicity of things. …  We keep records and saw more murder cases during the pandemic in the county. Is it by happenstance? Who knows, but a lot are related to the use of drugs or alcohol or gangs. … “Given the nature of the election and the political parties calling each other out and everything else happening in the world, I personally think it has led to some of these crimes. The climate of the entire world is heightened.”

Rouhib agreed that COVID-19 has likely been a factor in these recent crime trends and said the Eastpointe police are taking steps to try to deter violent crimes.

“The Police Department has been increasing patrols in the residential subdivisions and making contact with residents, our police reserves have been using bikes to patrol the subdivisions, our motorcycle officers have been also playing a role in the subdivisions,” he wrote. “We are starting back up our Neighborhood Watch program where we educate the public on crimes. We have been sending our officers to specialized training to learn how to deal with mental illness. We are working with victims of violent crimes and assaults, guiding them to the proper resources.”

“I’m not sure what we can do about it, but it’s definitely something that law enforcement needs to be looking at and coordinating on,” added Pettyes. “Are we not punishing these crimes enough to be a deterrent or is that not even a factor? Is COVID a factor? We need to look at this as a broader trend.”

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