Criminal incidents near GV Pew Campus raise concern among students


GVL / Meghan Tripp

Payton Brazzil, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University community received two GVSUALERT! emails within hours of each other over the weekend of Sept. 10 and 11. Both incidents occurred on the Blue Bridge located near GVSU’s Pew Campus in downtown Grand Rapids, sparking concerns from students over the ability of local law enforcement to maintain safety.

The first incident involved a reported sexual assault on Saturday night, with the second incident occurring around 3 a.m. on Sunday morning with multiple shots being fired.

Grand Rapids Police Department Chief, Eric Winstrom, said an illegal party began Friday and Saturday night on the bridge with more than 100 people in attendance.

Early Sunday morning, the police responded to the complaint of multiple shots fired and found four adult males injured. The injuries were reported as non-life threatening and the men are expected to recover.

The party went on from Saturday night to early Sunday morning with police making arrests, towing cars and responding to the large gathering.

Chief Winstrom told WGVU that he believes the pandemic is partly to blame for the recent surge in disorderly conduct downtown.

“I think what we are seeing in downtown areas across the country is that they have sort of been abandoned – for lack of a better word – of employees, diners, of just regular foot traffic,” Winstrom told WGVU. “I think it became kind of a playground for criminals, and they thought it was more and more allowable to have these impromptu parties, to do disorderly behavior, because there were less eyes, less people complaining. So, I think now that we are in a post-COVID world, it is time to get back to normal.”

GVSU student Abby Haney said she disagrees with Winstrom.

“As a student, I am very aware of this scary situation, but I don’t think the pandemic is completely to blame for downtown’s violence,” Haney said. “I go downtown a lot for food and stuff. There’s always a lot of people and I usually feel safe. I think we are relatively back to normal, from what I know.”

The Grand Valley Police Department did not respond to the Lanthorn’s request for an interview, but they advise students to stay cautious around the Blue Bridge at night.

“Because of reported ongoing violence on or near the Blue Bridge during early morning hours, members of the GVSU community are encouraged to exercise caution if in that area after midnight,” GVPD said in the GVSUALERT! email.

Haney, who lives near the downtown campus, said she tends to stay away from downtown after dark.

“I live close to where the shooting and assault happened, so I try not to ever stay out late or I stick with a group of people,” Haney said.

GVSU student Madison McDonald said the weekend’s incidents made her nervous to go downtown.

“I think law enforcement could do a better job because I’m really anxious to go downtown now,” McDonald said. “I know it’s easier said than done, but I’ve been feeling more unsafe than the past couple of years downtown and on campus.”

In the GVSUALERT! emails, GVPD provided information, including safety tips, resources and a description of the incidents.

So far, police are still investigating the reason for the shooting and are reviewing surveillance footage. The suspects of the sexual assault and the shooting have not been arrested.

The investigations are ongoing and any information regarding the incidents may be directed to the Grand Rapids Police Department or Silent Observer.