More GRPD along Ionia Ave. after shootings

Police patrol Ionia Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids. (June 19, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After three incidents of violence in downtown Grand Rapids, police beefed up their patrols in the bar and restaurant district along Ionia Avenue SW.

Just after midnight Wednesday, a 16- and 17-year-old were shot in the area of Ionia Avenue and Fulton Street. One sustained critical and the other serious wounds. Both are expected to survive. Shots were also fired on Sunday just down the street, but no one was hit.

A joint statement from GRPD, city hall and business leaders released Thursday said police patrols were stepped up downtown starting Wednesday.

“I’ve seen a lot of cop cars here, just rolling past,” Taji Davis, who works downtown, said Thursday. “Yesterday, there was one just parked out back of the alley, you know. It seems like they’re trying to do something.”

Between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., even before bar crowds started to pick up, nine cruisers ran down Ionia Avenue, making police presence known. After dusk fell, a cruiser could be seen every four or five minutes.

GRPD said it wasn’t adding manpower. Rather, it redeployed officers with a fluid plan, sending them to where crowds gathered.

“The people who are doing this, I mean, with more cops around, they’ll probably think twice about pulling out a gun and trying to shoot somebody, or shooting it in the air or something,” Davis said.

GRPD is also getting tough on teens, cracking down on curfew violations: 15- and 16-year-olds must be off the street by midnight, 12- to 14-year-olds by 11 p.m., and kids younger than 11 have to go home by 10 p.m.

Thousands of people head to bars and restaurants at night in the downtown area, which has seen millions of dollars in investments in recent years.

“Our downtown area is the business hub and entertainment destination for the region and it is critically important to take these steps to make sure everyone feels safe and welcome in our City,” City Manager Greg Sundstrom said in the statement.

Davis, who came to West Michigan to study journalism at Grand Valley State University, said he’s from Chicago.

“I don’t feel threatened by any of it (the recent violence) because I’m used to it, but I still don’t want to deal with it,” he said. “This is Grand Rapids. You shouldn’t be doing this in the first place. It’s a nice area, nice people. Why have guns out here?”

Jessica Carlson of Muskegon said she made the trip to Grand Rapids to have dinner downtown Thursday.

“I was coming here tonight and my friends were like be careful there’s been shootings in Grand Rapids,” she said.

But that didn’t stop her from visiting HopCat on Ionia.

“You can’t be too afraid of that kind of stuff,” she said.

Despite the recent incidents, city leaders say the area is safe.

“The reality, fact is that downtown is an incredibly safe place. Crime rates have dropped every year for the last five years. That’s true both of the City of Grand Rapids and here in downtown,” Kris Larson, the CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc., said. “It’s really not so much a safety issue. It’s a couple of unfortunate events. The downtown remains a very safe place to be and enjoy.”

Police declined to comment directly Thursday on their investigation into the Wednesday shooting, but said no arrests had been made. The statement says a reward for information is being offered through Silent Observer.

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