SAFE Taskforce

SAFE (Safe Alliances For Everyone) taskforce is an anti-violence initiative. We work to lower violence in our communities. We partner with community organizations and businesses to help support this goal. Together, we work to solve issues 15 to 24-year-old residents are facing. We focus on gun violence, lack of pro-social opportunities, and mental health issues

The SAFE Taskforce establishes four goals:
1) Share information on what exists about neighborhood violence

2) Support programs based on research to fill existing gaps

3) Advocate for community empowerment and voice

4) Promote city policy through recommendation


Commissioner Senita Lenear leads the taskforce; both City staff and community partners serve in this program.

Individual winners

Nahshon Cook-Nelson

The purpose of SpeakLightTv is to entertain and empower students on finding direction in their lives, believing in themselves, and understanding the power of their mind. Our idea is to build a succinct program dedicated to eliminating violence by working with students from the inside out. In collaboration with corporate entertainer Tim Cusack and mentorship from mind development leader Bob Proctor, we are developing a program that would get students throughout Grand Rapids laughing, loving, and inspired.  My idea requires that we produce marketing materials, receive coaching, and dedicate time and other resources towards constructing this program. The $500 received from SAFE Taskforce would go directly towards courses, research, development, promotion, and delivery of SpeakLightTv's Workshop(s).

Michael Anthony Booker            

My idea is to reduce the violence in Grand Rapids takes the participant’s age group of 15-24 year olds and have them become active stakeholders in bringing about positive changes in how they engage with one another. I will organize a group of responsible adults in the community and match them with youths aged 15-24 to commit to build positive relationships. Projects will include building up neighborhoods where these youth resides which include having a neighborhood clean up day. Active adults and the youths participating together picking up debris/trash, snow shoveling activities during the winter months, recreational activities at our local gyms and fostering positive relationships to meeting this targeted age group with mentors in their own communities.

Cole and Nathan Williams
Son to a Father Project

The Son to a Father Project is a prevention program that provides workshops to young fathers between the ages of 15-24. The project is run by Cole and Nathan Williams, both are bonded by a 22-year journey as father and son. They have ten years of experience working together as family facilitators. Their primary goal is to model for incarcerated and adjudicated male father’s healthy ways to sustain, maintain, and remain connected to their children and communities.


Organization winners

Restorative Justice Coalition of West Michigan 
Carol Rienstra
Robert S

We will create a radio and/or television show (maybe a series) called "Reality RJ West Michigan" and use real people with real events and real solutions to model restorative justice solutions to violence. We will recruit a team of youth age 15-24 who are willing to participate in the restorative process as well as the public telling of their stories. These will be youth who have been involved in violent lifestyles in the past and want to change.  We will provide mentors who can teach about restorative conferences, circles, and dispute mediation.

Dreams Take Work        
Duke Turley      

Create events and work-shops that will build healthy relationships between each other males 15-24, local organizations, business, and law enforcement.

Crossroads Bible Church with Songbird Justice Initiative              
Rachel VerWys

Grand Rapids experiences a hidden violence, sex trafficking. In 2013, the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking found that “there is inadequate data on human trafficking in Michigan. The first phase of this project is to assess the nature and scope of sex trafficking in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A grant from the SAFE Task Force would lead two parts forward in this comprehensive plan. To begin, the first ever collaborative Design Thinking Process with multi-disciplinary partners to ideate solutions based on our gathered research to combat trafficking would take place in the winter of 2018. The second part would provide funding to increase the capacity of research partner, Leslie King, to increase her direct service provision in the SE area of Grand Rapids with those exploited in the sex industry. Funding for a safe space for those caught in trafficking has been identified has a pressing need to address the violence.


We investigated into the root causes for violence in our communities. We were able to identify 5 important tasks to establish peace in our city.
Our PEACE Pillars:

Prevention investment

Eliminate violent acts 

Activate economic opportunities

Community Engagement

Effect Positive Change in Public Institutions (Local, County, & State)


To learn more about our PEACE Pillars and our goals for implementing them in our neighborhoods, please read pages 31- 37 in our SAFE Report and Recommendations.

We're working to provide opportunities to the youth in our communities. This helps reduce crime in our 15-24 year old youth. Here's a look at few initiatives we're partnering with:

This organization gives children access to quality after-school programs.

This is a partnership between the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools. O.C.C. provides leadership and vision to help our youth grow and improve. O.C.C. prepares youth for college, work, and life. 

Grand Rapids Public School Restorative Justice Concept
"Expelled" students are likely to have run-ins with the law. G.R.P.S. now gives expelled students the chance to get back in school. The program focuses on disproportionate minority expulsions. The goal is to limit the number of expulsions.

Grand Rapids Neighborhood Associations have a 45-year history of developing resident leadership in our communities. They make sure that residents have a voice in decisions that affect their neighborhoods.

Neighborhood associations also facilitate interaction with community members and local government. They offer residents opportunities to speak with city leadership, as well as challenge them.

SAFE works with the Baxter and Eastown neighborhoods. This helps us hear directly from the community about how we can help make safer communities for them. Together we're helping to lower crime in Grand Rapids.

Want to get involved with your local neighborhood association but not sure which neighborhood you belong to? You can use the Community Research Institute's interactive maps to see info about your neighborhood. Click Grand Rapids Neighborhoods on the left side of the page to select a neighborhood. Then click the neighborhood for detailed demographic data.

"While the vision for SAFE was conceived by municipality leadership, the work of SAFE is the direct result of the collective wisdom, personal investment, and shared passion among resident leaders eager to do the heavy lifting required to spark social change.” – Commissioner Senita Lenear 

Our Taskforce Members:

Commissioner Senita Lenear
Third Ward Commissioner
City of Grand Rapids

Commissioner Ruth Kelly 
Third Ward Commissioner
City of Grand Rapids

David Rahinsky
Chief of Police
City of Grand Rapids

Asante Cain
Assistant to the City Manager
City of Grand Rapids

Stacy Stout
Assistant to the City Manager
City of Grand Rapids

Don Lee
Executive Director
Eastown Community Association 

Lynn Heemstra
Executive Director
Our Community’s Children

Mindy Ysasi
Executive Director

Julie Ridenour
Steelcase Foundation

Chris Sain
Vice President
NAACP of Grand Rapids

Raynard Ross
Vice President
The Grand Rapids Board of Education

Larry Johnson
Assistant Superintendent
Chief of Staff and Executive Director of Public Safety
Grand Rapids Public Schools

Carol Rienstra
Prisoners in Christ 

Dr. John Walsh
School of Criminal Justice
Grand Valley State University

Duke Turley
Community Member

SAFE collaborates and partners with local and national organizations. Reviewing their ideas and practices helps us make strategies that are tailored to our community needs.

Here's a look at our Partners and Collaborators:

Arbor Circle Mentoring

This organization provides services for families with members experiencing mental health issues and substance abuse.

Ban the Box­

This campaign aims to give people with past convictions a fair chance.

Baxter Neighborhood Association

This neighborhood association is located on the southeast side of Grand Rapids.

City of Grand Rapids

Cure Violence­

This organization goal is to reduce violence globally using disease control and behavior change methods.

Eastown Community Associaton

This neighborhood association is devoted to fostering a safe, diverse, and walkable Eastown neighborhood by creating opportunities for neighbors and friends to engage and connect.

ELO Network

This organization gives children access to quality after-school programs.

GR Rotary Club- Students and Youth

This service club fights to combat hunger, improve health conditions and promote peace.

Grand Rapids Community College

Grand Rapids Community College offers experiential learning, honors courses, seminars, workshops, training courses and online learning.

Grand Rapids Police Department

Our police department provides professional, progressive, and responsive police services, in collaboration with the community, to ensure a safer Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids Public Schools

Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) is Michigan’s fifth largest public school district and the third largest employer in the City of Grand Rapids, serving nearly 17,000 students with 2,700 employees, including 1,400 dedicated teachers.

Heart of West Michigan United Way

This nonprofit organization unites community resources to reduce poverty in Kent County. 

Hispanic Center of Western Michigan

The Hispanic Center of Western Michigan is a non-profit organization serving the needs of the Latino and broader community.

Joy Youth Services

This faith based nonprofit organization strengthens youths, families, and communities by enriching lives through education, opportunities, support, and other activities.


This community development organization provides services to Kent County. They are involved in a host of projects and services that reach families, houses, businesses and neighborhoods at large.

My Brothers Keeper

Former President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.

Network 180

This organization connects individuals and families to services for mental illness, substance use disorders, or developmental disabilities.

NOLA for Life

This organization takes a holistic approach to crime reduction in the city of New Orleans.

Our Community's Children

This is a partnership between the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools. O.C.C. provides leadership and vision to help our youth grow and improve. O.C.C. prepares youth for college, work, and life. 

South Bend Group Violence

This initiative works to reduce violence and to stop killings.

Spectrum Health

Spectrum Health is a non-profit, integrated, managed care health care organization based in West Michigan.

Steelcase Foundation

The Steelcase Foundation believes that quality, accessible public education is paramount to achieving its vision. The Foundation assists its philanthropic partners in generating education initiatives, in addition to work and cultural opportunities.

Stop It!: A Grand Rapids Community Involvement Initiative

This initiative encourages collaboration and spur dialogue that facilitates change in our community. 

To College Through College Studio

To College Through College is a partnership between the City and Grand Rapids Colleges. They work with community partners to realize our collective goals for our next generation.

Youth Workforce Leaders

The Youth Workforce Leaders Academy is a year-long professional development opportunity for mid-level professionals who play a decision-making role at organizations providing youth workforce development services.

SAFE aims to prevent crime and promote accountability in our communities. This includes accountability between civilians and the police. We've done several things to help reach our goal. Helping to pass a Police body camera policy is one of our biggest achievements. This policy has helped the City focus on community policing.


To find out more information about police-community relations & pro-active police strategies, please read pages 12-13 in our SAFE Report and Recommendations.