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City of Grand Rapids releases health and safety report after complaints

Cole Bond, left, and Mike Jack, from Fence Consultants of West Michigan, put up barricades in downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Cory Morse | MLive.com
Associated Press

Business owners report growing lawlessness in city's downtown

After multiple complaints from business owners downtown, the City of Grand Rapids Tuesday unveiled its plans to address the growing population of persons experiencing homelessness.

Back in December, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce had put pressure on City Hall to adopt new health and safety protocols, after several small business owners said they had witnessed public defecation, public sex, street fights, harassed workers, and aggressive panhandling. Many said their staff do not feel safe when they are at work, particularly at night.

On Tuesday, Grand Rapids Deputy City Manager Kate Berens presented a 71-page report to the city’s public safety committee, outlining its plans to address safety concerns downtown, public indecency, and the growing homeless population.

Berens began by emphasizing however, that being unhoused is not a crime.

In addition to the work the city has already begun including several new public restrooms and the removal of over 20 homelessness encampments, the city laid out its plans to hire private security for 11 parks downtown, while making homeless outreach positions permanent.

Meanwhile, Berens said the city plans to crack down on public indecency and trespassing violations with $500 fines and up to 90-days in jail.