“This is not over.” Muskegon Heights Police Chief celebrates success, looks forward to challenges ahead

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — “We are not the only ones doing this,” Muskegon Heights Police Chief, Joseph Thomas, told FOX 17 of their gun take-back initiative. “[But] we pulled it off with overwhelming success.”

Chief Thomas was very happy with the turnout for the Guns for Groceries event, which handed out a $100 grocery gift card to anyone – no names, no questions asked – willing to hand in a weapon. We asked how police and community leaders kept track of all the hand-ins, but Thomas said it was simple; they didn’t.

“Police must change what we do…. We are not in the law enforcement business anymore. We must solve social ills before they become a law enforcement issue.” Thomas told us.  “We must take a socio-economic approach.”

Cash could’ve been the option over gift cards, but Thomas stressed the importance of helping the community identify their control over the situation. Instead of anonymous cash that could’ve gone to anything, grocery gift cards were handed out to make sure participants were able to support themselves and their families.

At final count 137 guns were taken off the streets. On top of that, some of the money used to fund the grocery gift cards was taken by police during drug forfeitures. Money that could have been used for more violence,  more guns, and the further deterioration of the community is now being used to feed and build up that community.

“This is not over,” The chief assured us. In June alone two town-hall meetings are planned for anyone wishing to speak about what is going on in the community and how to make it better. “[Success] has a lot to do with how we’ve presented it. The community is finally realizing this is not a police problem – it’s a community problem, and they are behind us 110%”

Town-halls are planned for June 25th at Christ Apostolic Temple on Sherman Boulevard, and June 27th at Mount Zion Church of God in Christ on Muskegon Avenue, both meetings are from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Chief Thomas invites anyone of any age to come speak as a community to help solve issues faced in Muskegon Heights.