BENTON HARBOR — Michigan State Police has ramped up patrols in Benton Harbor due to seven people being shot in five incidents in July, resulting in one death.

“This happens in Chicago,” MSP Niles Post Commander Lt. Mike Dawson said. “We’re not used to it here.”

Dawson said troopers last Friday started conducting nightly patrols through the city. Before that, the patrols were mostly on weekends during the summer.

Benton Harbor Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis said his office is still seeking tips on all five incidents, including the one on July 31 that left 29-year-old Arsenio Jordan of Benton Harbor dead and two others injured.

McGinnis said it’s frustrating because the detectives aren’t getting much cooperation from the public.

“That’s where, hopefully, tip411 comes in,” he said. “You can send us a tip and no one will know who sent it.”

Benton Harbor DPS Citizen Observer tip411 is an app used by many police departments so people can report crime anonymously. It is available for download for free at the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store.

McGinnis said his office is still asking for the public’s help to find 21-year-old Eric Holbrook of Benton Harbor, a suspect in the July 31 shooting. A warrant for open murder was issued for him on Aug. 2.

Other ways to share information anonymously are via the department’s tipline at 927-0293, or by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-342-STOP (7867).

McGinnis said people tell detectives they are afraid of retaliation if they talk to law enforcement officers.

“But they should be more fearful if they don’t say anything,” he said. “... If we don’t step up and stop this violence in our community, then it won’t stop.”

McGinnis said it appears that the five incidents aren’t related to each other.

Dawson said he spoke with McGinnis and Interim City Manager Ellis Mitchell earlier this week to let them know about the increase in patrols.

In addition, McGinnis said they talked about all law enforcement officers needing to be friendlier.

“It’s not a matter of writing as many tickets as you can,” he said. “... It’s about building relationships. At a traffic stop, the most important thing is to have a good exchange. Some things might be worth just a warning.”

High-speed chases

The two agencies also talked about high-speed chases.

Dawson said it has been MSP’s policy for years to only conduct high-speed chases when there’s a felony involved. He said he agreed with McGinnis to remind his troopers of that policy. 

Whenever there is a high- speed chase involving a state trooper, he said it is investigated by another district.

Dawson said detectives from MSP District 6, headquartered in Rockford, are continuing to investigate a high-speed chase in Benton Township last Friday that resulted in the hospitalization of the driver, 22-year-old Curtis Duane Dawson Jr. of Benton Harbor. Police said Dawson, traveling at a high rate of speed and without a license plate, fled from police when they attempted to pull him over. Dawson eventually lost control and hit a utility pole. 

McGinnis said many people believe that the city has a “no chase” policy.

“That’s a fallacy,” he said. “We just don’t do it a lot.”

McGinnis said he wants to remind people that Benton Harbor is not a safe haven from high-speed chases.

Secure Cities Partnership

Dawson’s MSP post has been working closely with Benton Harbor police since even before their relationship was formalized in 2016 by the city being added to the Secure Cities Partnership by then-Gov. Rick Snyder.

Through the partnership, MSP added three detectives and a crime analyst to work with Benton Harbor police.

Between 2012 and 2018, violent crime dropped 7 percent and property crime decreased by 50 percent in Benton Harbor, according to a March report MSP submitted to state legislators regarding the partnerships. 

The program was started in 2012 in Detroit, Flint, Saginaw and Pontiac. At the time, Snyder said the state needs “smart justice” because “(c)riminals do not recognize the geographic boundaries that define our municipalities.”

In 2016, other cities added to the partnership besides Benton Harbor were Hamtramck, Harper Woods, Highland Park, Inkster and Muskegon Heights. Lansing was added in 2017.

Nine of the 11 cities have seen violent crime decrease since the program started. The only cities reporting an increase in violent crimes were Lansing and Muskegon Heights, according to the report.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege