Averill Woods report on gang fight and related issues

PLEASE NOTE:  This is Melissa Quon-Huber’s report about gang-related events that have happened in recent weeks in our neighborhood.  If you live in our southwest Lansing (MI) neighborhood or other parts of Lansing, this is worth reading.  It’s important.


I do want to let you all know that I have had many fruitful conversations with LPD over the past few weeks. Chief Malley had a previous commitment and won’t be able to attend this meeting, but he wanted to assure me and our residents that he wants to hear about our concerns.

I was particularly grateful to Lt. Yankowski for the many hours he spent on the phone with several of us. He took time to hear our concerns and acknowledge some missteps on behalf of LDP. I will try to relay all of what I have learned from him and other sources:


With Chief Malley’s permission, Lt. Yankowski was also able to relay some additional information about the June “alleged gang event” at Averill elementary.

There were 10 individuals identified in that event. 2 are considered to have potential gang ties.  The event is considered to have been “a flare of tempers” between students from Sexton and Everett on the basketball court.  In the midst of this, a gun was produced and shots were fired into the air.  It sounds like the only injury was to an individual who was punched. The investigation has stalled because victim(s) won’t reveal further information.

Unanswered Question: Neighbors reported 30-40 individuals were involved in this event. What about those additional people beyond the 10 that have been identified?

(Also, I have been told by former LPD folks that the basketball courts are the draw for these gatherings and the problems that result. So again, we may want to think about alternatives that we can work to implement with Lansing School District. (e.g. kiddie sized basketball hoops, moving hoops to location with better visibility, etc.)


Four concerned neighbors phoned LPD to report a gathering of youth at the school, anticipating a repeat of the June event. (Neighbors have been told by LPD to call as soon as a gathering occurs and not wait until “trouble” happens.)

According to neighbors, one officer arrived on the scene while the crowd was still gathered.  The officer drove near the crowd which then dispersed peacefully, and some laughter was overheard in the crowd suggesting it was not a violent group like the last time but no one had any way of knowing if that was true or not.

In the meantime, another neighbor receiving my email warning folks of the event in progress asked LPD to contact him with updates on the situation when available. Later, a sergeant informed him that the crowd was gone before the police officer arrived.

Neighbors concerns about this scenario:
·        Why didn’t the officer get out of the car and try to apprehend these people in case they were involved in the June incident?
·        Why did LPD “lie” about the crowd being disbursed before the officer arrived?

Lt. Yankowski revealed the cause for some of the missteps:
·        The officer called on to the scene did not get full information from dispatch about neighbors concerns related to previous gunshots or alleged gang activity.
·        The officer was not given any backup due to the low concern assigned the call.
·        The officer was not a regular in our area and had no knowledge of the past events at Averill.
·        Had all the information and history been relayed, the officer would have arrived on scene with backup and possibly prepared to go after individuals in the crowd.
·        (We also know that three other similar incidents with more violent activities were occurring at the same time. So the fact that the crowd disbursed was likely seen as a positive outcome and resources could be re-directed back to the more violent calls.)
·        The Sergeant reported back information based on the limited information typed/written on the officer’s report.


The next morning a neighbor noticed some very troubling gang graffiti on an apartment sign in our neighborhood. The neighbor reported this to LPD as was told they couldn’t do anything about this since it was on private property.  It seemed clear that LPD was not in a position to track the content and location of gang graffiti, nor be concerned about its presence.

Lt. Yankowski indicated that they do track the graffiti and have a list of potential gang members. It isn’t completely comprehensive, however, because they had no record of the gang graffiti at Wexford that spurred awareness of prison graffiti in the area.


IMHO, it appears that these recent missteps are a result of vulnerabilities in the communication chain and not necessarily apathy on anyone’s part. Here are some of the problems as I see them:

·        When you call into LPD, there are 2 civilian (non police-trained) gatekeepers that determine what information is given to the officer and what priority the call is assigned.
o       The complaint taker types a brief summary of your concern, assigns it a priority code (1, 2, or 3) and it goes to dispatch.
o       Dispatch doesn’t get any more information beyond what is typed by the complaint taker and assigns resources based on those priority codes.
·        Officers often don’t get the full information they need to respond appropriately, or are diverted from responding because of priority codes assigned by the complaint taker at LPD.
·        Low staffing resources
o       are diverting officers from all but the most urgent calls frequently throughout the summer. Officers are often at “priority 1 saturation.”
o       also mean that our neighborhoods are assigned “floaters” who have no history of what is happening in our neighborhood so they dismiss some of the problems as trivial, not knowing the severity of similar events in the past.
·        There is a disconnect between what LPD officers tell us to do and the way in which dispatch treats us when we follow LPD’s instructions.
o       E.g. LPD says call when you see a crowd gathering and don’t wait for trouble but dispatch dismisses this type of thing when we call.
o       People are often deterred from calling after they have a negative interaction with dispatch
·        There is not a clear set of resources directed to systematically tracking the content and location of gang graffiti.
o       There does not seem to be a comprehensive method of communicating about graffiti between LDP and the gang/graffiti hotline which is housed in public service and primarily results in code compliance letters being sent.
o       LPD complaint takers do not know to refer callers to graffiti hotline.


·        Request better training (customer service, crime, graffiti hotline) for LPD complaint takers
·        Train our residents in how to communicate effectively with complaint taker
·        Request streamlined handling (between LDP and public service) of ALL graffiti to ensure that all graffiti content and location is recorded and tracked.
·        Request data on when and how often our officers are at “level 1 saturation” – do we need a milage to get the staffing we need to protect our neighborhoods???
·        Encourage officers to tell residents what is really likely to happen when they call LPD; set up realistic expectations of how the call will be handled so residents are prepared.

I know we are all looking forward to working together with our front line officers who put their lives on the job everyday to protect us and with all of LPD in making this a safer community!!!!


One response to “Averill Woods report on gang fight and related issues

  1. Dear neighbors & friends at LPD,

    It was brought to my attention that earlier email describing events and perceptions in our neighborhood might have been offensive to some. That is the opposite of what I had intended.

    The intent of the email below was (1) to reiterate our support and appreciation for LPD, (2) to acknowledge the challenges faced by our residents as well as our officers, and (3) to find ways to support the resolutions of these challenges together. Unfortunately that did not come through to everyone as I had hoped.

    So I wanted to apologize for any misunderstanding in relaying the information. And I wanted to express appreciation for the many folks at LPD who are going out of their way to partner with us in addressing these issues!

    In the email I highlighted the chronological series of events in which neighbors characterized actions of LPD in a negative light. Those were authentic feelings and were conclusions based on the body of evidence folks had at that time.

    However, the rest of the story revealed that the LPD officers/sergeants were not likely negligent in these events. Rather, that the problems seemed to stem from a series of communication gaps beyond the control of the individuals involved and from a shortage of resources.

    Neighbors have indicated that the information relayed below was helpful in understanding LPD’s actions in a more positive light. We now understand more of what was happening that led to things playing out the way they did.

    Yes, LPD has acknowledged that there are some problems that need to be fixed at an institutional level. But we see ourselves as part of the solution too. We’re stepping up to the plate together to make things better.

    So I tried to objectively summarize what we’ve all learned about where those “gaps” are so we can seek changes together as a family of folks living and working in Lansing. The specificity of gaps noted was intended to create an efficient starting point for our problem-solving process this Thursday. I regret if it was seen as something else.

    I want to say again how pleased I have been to work with LPD’s leadership and front line officers in dealing with the very serious problems affecting our residents. Some of our residents have experienced a great deal of trauma and I am thankful that LPD is responsive to our concerns.

    Hopefully I explained myself better this time!

    Melissa S. Quon Huber, Ph.D.
    Averill Woods Neighborhood Association

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