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Lansing poll finds higher need for public safety

November 11, 2023
A Lansing Police car outside of MSU Union during the response of a shooting on Michigan State’s campus on the night Feb. 13, 2023.
A Lansing Police car outside of MSU Union during the response of a shooting on Michigan State’s campus on the night Feb. 13, 2023. —
Photo by Audrey Richardson | The State News

The Lansing Chamber of Commerce conducted one of the group's semi-annual city council election polls to get a pulse on local issues and what constituents want to see from elected officials.

Public safety was polled as the largest issue for residents this past October.

Out of 170 respondents to the polls, 32.8% said public safety was the most important issue for Lansing. However, 43.8% of respondents said they believe Lansing is on the right track, a number up 33.2% since the May 2023 poll. 

“We have seen some, even from May to October, positive shift that there is optimism with the city and getting back on the right track,” Steve Japinga, senior vice president of public affairs at the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, said. “But when we look at the issues that are probably continuing to be a challenge for the city, public safety, some of the issues voters want city officials to be working on is public safety, roads, and housing neighborhoods.”

Since this year's first poll in May, voters showed that they believe Lansing is doing better on the issue of safety, however there is still uneasiness. Japinga said there will always be safety issues.

“We do a lot of these polls quite a bit, and typically we’re not only polling our members, but we poll residents," Japinga said. "In the past, public safety was never up there as this number one (issue). But these past couple years it has jumped up." 

The Chamber of Commerce is reading these polls to look for ways to benefit the city through partnerships between the Chamber of Commerce and city officials, prosecutors and schools. He said there needs to be more opportunity to talk about reforms that best benefits the public.

While the poll found the top concerns included “public safety, roads, housing, and neighborhoods," first ward city council member for Lansing Ryan Kost said he believes the city of Lansing's biggest concerns fall under one of three categories of staffing issues: police, fire department and infrastructure.

First Ward City Council Member for Lansing Ryan Kost said the city was recently down a fire truck for a few hours., hindering service in the north side of the city. However because of mutual aid agreements, the fire service was still able to pull through with safety services. 

Another large issue for residents is gun violence according to what Kost is said he is hearing from constituents in accordance with safety issues; he said citizens are worried city officials cannot get violence under control. Kost said the “random” murder of political canvasser Ted Lawson in October struck fear into residents. 

Senior citizens have been particularly concerned recently about safety, according to Kost and what he is hearing from complaints of elderly constituents. 

Kost said he hears from seniors that have become fearful of walking down the street and stopping at stoplights. He said they are not worried about a “panhandler with a sign asking for money,” but they are concerned about recent issues with people walking through traffic and up to cars at stoplights.

Kost mentioned that many of the public safety concerns voiced by residents could benefit by more staff. 

“We need more staff, which is something that we’ve been talking about and trying to figure that out," Kost said. "Do they want benefits? Do they want more pay? What would make Lansing more desirable? We’re essentially right now being reactive instead of proactive because that’s what we have for staffing.”

Residents, council members and public safety officials have been pushing politicians on instilling more safety precautions and more funding, according to Japinga. 

Additional funding for a public safety facility from a voter-approved proposal helped generate the plans for a new public safety building in Lansing, which broke ground this summer. The building, set to be completed at the end of 2025, will settle the police and fire departments in a more centralized area in Lansing. 

Kost also said that additional efforts for public safety could include mental health professionals on staff at the Lansing Police Department. Social workers can join officers on calls when someone is in a mental crisis during an interaction with law enforcement. 

Another improvement Kost hopes for in Lansing is better communication between neighborhoods. Kost said the COVID-19 pandemic disconnecting neighbors from connecting with each other during isolation. 

Japinga said he hopes to conduct polls quarterly rather than semi-annually, so the Chamber can see how residents feel on key issues like safety more often. 

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