Community Groups Buckle Down After Shootings

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Lansing, Mich. (WILX) Even for Rina Risper -- who has worked with the families of murder victims for years -- Lansing's recent spree of shootings is the most she's seen at once.

"I have not seen anything like this before," she said. "It is quite disturbing."

The City of Lansing has seen nine shootings in the span of eight days, an uptick that has residents concerned and anti-violence non-profits frustrated.

"It's surprising, it's appalling, and I'm immensely concerned about the children and families in this area," said Martha Bibbs, who helps run Building Child and Family Initiatives. "We're seeing some of the same things over and over and over again that get worse. But that doesn't discourage me because somebody has to care."

Bibbs has been working for nearly three decades to push academics and particularly literacy on children. Reading and writing is a building block for everything they do, she said.

"If you can get the kids before they even get out into that life of violence, I think you might have a better chance of making sure that they avoid it," she said.

Monica Jahner still sees some success with the young men and women who she sees through the NorthWest Initiative's Arrow Program. The people she works with have been to prison and Jahner is in charge of getting them back on their feet.

They meet a couple hours a day a few times a week. Jahner tries to get them job-ready and change some of their troublesome past behaviors.

"They really haven't been dealt the best hand, so they become a product of their environments and we've gotta change that," she said. "So yeah, when I hear about a different shooting or something that's going on, I wonder where they come from and what their background is."

The shootings in Lansing last week discouraged her too, she admits, but only motivates her to do more.

The best thing she can do, she says, is care for the people she sees.

"We're gonna peel the onion," she said. "Because that's what we're going to do with every guy that comes in here. We get an assessment, we figure out what is going on with that person and we work to change that lifestyle."

Budget cuts over the years have made things tougher at NorthWest, but community advocates say in addition to donating money, you can help by donating time to a non-profit or volunteering in a neighborhood you don't normally visit.

Paying attention and telling police what you know after a crime can help too.

"It's about hitting the streets," said Risper. "Walking through the streets and letting individuals know that we are available.

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