1. Homicide rates climbed (again) in Greater Lansing.
More than 100 people took a bullet this year in Lansing as record-breaking levels of gun violence continued to soar — resulting in at least 24 people killed in 2021, up from 21 homicides tracked citywide in 2020, according to the Lansing Police Department. (For a look at the victims, see P. 10.)
All told, Lansing police have counted 45 homicides, 112 non-fatal shootings and more than 1,000 gunshot reports over the last two years. City officials have pointed the blame largely toward an influx of illegal firearms, with at least 1,200 guns seized since 2019.
Authorities also suspect that most of the violence has been tied to a subsection of the population: young Black men turning from fists to bullets in personal disputes, often in retaliation for other criminal behavior.
In response, Mayor Andy Schor announced plans to hire five more officers (and another social worker) at the Police Department as quickly as possible. Newly installed Police Chief Ellery Sosebee has also strategically ramped up police patrols in certain neighborhoods.
Schor also launched a gun violence task force in June and has since rolled out several grant-funding opportunities to help create more afterschool activities. City officials have formed partnerships with school district officials, opened up community centers and pledged more than $250,000 toward a gun violence intervention program in 2022.
Nonprofit organizations and local faith-based organizations have been hard at work to launch community-focused solutions that include direct mentorship with troubled teenagers. Lansing’s congresswoman, Elissa Slotkin, introduced legislation to make it a federal crime not to secure weapons properly. Slotkin also represents Oxford, site of the high school shooting last month allegedly carried out by a 15-year-old who authorities say easily obtained the handgun at home.
Still, many local residents are heading into the new year frustrated over what some have labeled as a lack of meaningful, equitable, short-term solutions to curbing violence in Lansing.
2. The pandemic dragged on for another year.
Michigan tracked about 1 million more COVID-19 cases in 2021 — bringing the statewide total to about 1.5 million cases reported since the pandemic arrived in the state about two years ago. Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties have tracked a total of about 65,000 cases and 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths, with about 700 of those deaths reported in 2021.
All told, the coronavirus now marks the deadliest pandemic in American history, with about 815,000 people killed nationwide from the virus compared to about 675,000 during the 1918 influenza pandemic.
A limited vaccine rollout in January helped to fight the spread of the virus while state mandates on masks and social distancing were lifted and bars and restaurants reopened in March — allowing some businesses to narrowly cling to life after a year of state shutdowns.
City officials also caused a stir in January after Mayor Andy Schor and Councilmen Peter Spadafore and Brandon Betz got their shots before they were technically eligible to have received them. That controversy quickly fizzled out after supplies caught up with demand.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in federal, state and local grant funds also continued to flow to
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