Like so many cities in 2020, Kalamazoo has experienced big percentage increase in violent crime. According to fox17online.com the southwest Michigan city “has seen a 71% increase in gun-related homicides compared to last year. It has also seen a 122% increase in non-fatal shootings.”
The program consists of four sub-programs, each one to be funded at $25,000, for a total of $100,000. Let’s look at how the city plans to spend citizens’ tax dollars.
Block Club Project: “Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo (SPK) is an initiative that originated with the Kalamazoo City Commission’s decision in 2014 to make poverty reduction a key priority for the city. … SPK identified three distinct but interrelated goals to carry out its work: 1) increase access to good jobs; 2) ensure the healthy growth, development, and learning of all our youth; and 3) create strong families.”
How many “good jobs” will $25,000 create?
A better approach would be to offer business sales and property tax breaks to move into the targeted areas and create jobs for locals. And a strong promise of increased policing around their businesses might be another incentive to take the risk.
Community Healing: “Funds are proposed to support community efforts underway to improve access to culturally competent mental health professionals for community members impacted by gun violence.”
It isn’t clear what a “culturally competent” mental health professional is, or how many they can hire with twenty-five grand is explained. Perhaps they can combine this with the “Block Club” to hire one whole social worker at $50,000. For a year.
Housing Rehabilitation: “Funds are proposed to support the development and implementation of a pilot for income eligible residents to receive assistance for home repair after a shooting has occurred.”
Apartment renters will probably decline to make repairs, seeing that as the landlord’s responsibility. Wouldn’t you expect landlords to blow off minor repairs until a unit is vacated anyway? Wouldn’t home owners file an insurance claim?
Which brings us to the final, and in my mind most troubling, proposal.
Increased Security Systems: “The City has been researching security camera initiatives in which municipalities partner with a company to improve access to cameras through discounted, bulk pricing and a streamlined purchase process. Security cameras, video doorbells and alarm systems for residential use can link smartphone users to their devices.”
Specifically, they plan to distribute Ring door cameras to residents in crime-ridden neighborhoods.
Many people, particularly lower income folks, have only their smart phones for Internet access. Ring cameras require Internet access in order to operate; video is streamed to Ring cloud servers. Will the residents the city would most like to see take advantage of this program have non-phone Internet connections? Will the city pay for Internet service for those who do not?
I wonder if the city is even aware of the known security flaws in Ring systems, which allow unauthorized access to Ring audio and video? Would the city be liable for privacy intrusions via city-provided equipment?
At $100 for a the lowest end Ring doorbell camera, you could at most get 250 units with a rather specific and limited field of view. Would it be cost effective to install more conventional security cameras higher on buildings and utility poles, positioned to cover more area? That way, the city would have direct access to the feeds.
With Ring cameras, they will have to canvas residents after an incident happens and hope they haven’t deleted footage already.
This six figure outlay doesn’t really seem to have been well thought out or to be a good use of the city’s tax dollars. And how it will do anything about “gun violence” is anyone’s guess. But at least they aren’t trotting out more 2A rights infringements.
The Kalamazoo mayor’s office didn’t respond to an inquiry about the program.