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Flint mother calls on parents to step in to prevent violence

This is a screengrab of video shot by Tonya Burns in Flint
This is a screengrab of video shot by Tonya Burns in Flint(Courtesy of Tonya Burns)
Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 5:51 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Sitting in her car after coming across another police scene in Flint this weekend, Tonya Burns is calling on parents to step up.

Ahead of the summer months, when violence typically increases, she’s already worried. The Flint Police Department confirms one shooting Saturday one Friday and one Thursday.

Flint Police Chief Terence Green is adding overtime for officers to step up patrols around high crime areas of the city, hoping to get ahead of the problem. Burns pointed out Flint police are understaffed, so it’s up to everyone to put a stop to the gun violence.

Burns, an outspoken mother and business owner in Flint, is asking moms and dads to have conversations with their kids about putting the guns down and not jumping to violence to solve a problem.

“I’m looking at how the generations are switching. Our values are not being passed on,” she said. “Talk to them about, do you have to -- if someone yells and screams at you or threatens your life, what would you do? Talk about scenarios and watch the news. How would you handle that differently?”

Burns is overwhelmed by the violence. She said she runs into a large police presence with crime scene tape roping off the street when she leaves her house. Plus, she’s frequently awoken by gunshots.

Because Burns is making it her duty to post to social media when she hears or sees anything, now her friends and even strangers are reaching out to report what they’re seeing to her. She asks each one of them to immediately call police.

Green has said that’s key so officers can respond and keep track of what’s going on. He and Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton have noted that the people involved in crimes over the last few years are younger and younger.

That is another reason why Burns is asking parents to pay attention.

“I think it’ll make a difference,” she said. “We have to start having the conversations because it’s not just the norm. We need to quit pretending going to funerals is the final way to handle it.”

Burns just threw her name in to run for City Council, hoping to help make that difference.

Green believes the city’s new anti-crime effort, which involves increasing patrols and conducting more traffic stops, has been successful so far. He said officers encounter someone with an illegal firearm almost daily.

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