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Surging crime, fentanyl crisis at forefront of Michigan governor’s race

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Less than a month until November’s gubernatorial election, Republican candidate Tudor Dixon is urging voters to hold the state’s Democratic governor accountable for rising crime rates.

‘It’s a problem. People are feeling it in areas they’ve never felt crime before,’ said Dixon in an interview with Fox News on Friday. 

Dixon, who has trailed Whitmer in recent polls, believes voters are fed up with spikes in fentanyl overdoses and drug related gun violence. Michigan Republicans have tried to label Whitmer as soft on crime amid recent FBI data showing crime rates rising in cities like Detroit, Saginaw, and Lansing.

‘I think it’s important to look at her record. When she got into office, she started taking money away from the police and away from secondary road patrols,’ Dixon said. 

Whitmer, who won her race in 2018 by roughly ten percentage points, defended her record on crime during a televised debate on Thursday in Grand Rapids.

‘I delivered a bipartisan investment in our law enforcement. A billion dollars for training, for recruiting, for making sure that we’re shoring up pensions for those who risk their lives,’ said Whitmer during the debate. 

But criminal justice and crime prevention advocates say both parties should be doing more to address the recent rise in crime. The Michigan Sheriffs Association, which is not endorsing a gubernatorial candidate, told Fox many police departments are struggling to find recruits given the uptick in anti-police rhetoric in recent years.

‘When you see the men and women currently wearing the uniform being demonized, why would you want to go into that profession where you on a daily basis have people spitting on you or assaulting you?’ said Matthew Saxton, executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs Association. 

Saxton is urging the winner of November’s gubernatorial election, regardless of the party, to ensure violent criminals remain behind bars instead of being released quickly after their arrest.

‘We’ve got to focus on our victims again and not about the offender. All the legislation lately has been about the offender and lowering jail populations or lowering prison populations. And that’s not working,’ Saxton aded.

In Lansing, violence prevention groups told Fox they are constantly ignored by Michigan’s politicians until election season approaches. Michael Lynn Jr, a community advocate and Executive Director of The Village Lansing, detailed repeated efforts to get officials attention.

‘It does feel like a lot of propaganda. They’re always [using] talking points in the election season. And then we’re left out here to just deal with this stuff when the election is over. And that’s kind of how it’s been from the local level all the way up,’ said Michael Lynn Jr, a community advocate and executive director of The Village Lansing. Lynn says he’s seen firsthand how violence has decimated his community well before the pandemic. 

‘There are a lot of organizations that are out here outside of just ours that are doing a lot of really good work on the ground level with very little resources,’ added Lynn. In addition to offering conflict resolution, the group offers emotional support to families reeling from gun violence. Marlon Beard, a Michigan native, says his family was left devastated following the 2021 unsolved murder of his 16-year-old son Marshawn. 

‘It’s really basically your worst nightmare to lose an intricate part of your family,’ Beard said during an interview with Fox on Thursday. Beard says he’s eager to see state lawmakers and the next governor address gun violence directly because he fears more Michigan families, even those who live in traditionally safer communities, will be confronted with similar tragedies. 

‘We have to we have to come together as a country and even in our individual communities to pay more attention to what’s going on with our youth,’ added Beard.

Michigan’s gubernatorial candidates are likely to address violence in their final debate, scheduled for October 25.

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