BAY CITY, MI – Business owners and Bay City officials have joined forces in a commitment to make the Midland Street Entertainment District a safe place for patrons to enjoy after several violent incidents there.
Commissioner Jesse Dockett introduced a resolution that states that the City of Bay City will develop a security plan and work with local business owners to eliminate crime in the Midland Street area.
Dockett said that he intentionally left the resolution vague so that it could be built upon. But at its core, the resolution and plan passed by the Bay City Commission has a simple goal – to keep people safe while balancing the needs of local business owners. The resolution was unanimously approved.
“I wanted to make sure that we’re keeping people safe, the customers down in the Midland Street area and the surrounding block, the neighborhoods around – I want to keep people safe. But I also want to keep businesses thriving,” Dockett said.
As a part of the city’s plan, Dockett recommended that an additional two overtime officers should be assigned to the area, at an estimated cost of roughly $50 per hour with a minimum shift of four hours. Dockett said that the officers would be enforcing loitering restrictions in an attempt to weed out troublemakers, citing observations that those stirring up trouble have been hanging out in the street instead of patronizing businesses.
“We have fund balance to do this, this is an event that I think would warrant dipping into the fund balance for, it’s kind of a major thing, we have to make sure that people are safe,” he said.
Bay City Commissioner Ed Clements of Ward 8, which runs through Midland Street, agreed.
“I think it is a wise investment of our resources for this area, when you really break it down there isn’t an area anywhere, maybe not in the state, that offers what Midland Street has – there’s great restaurants down there, there’s entertainment, bars clubs, there’s something for everybody, there’s a lot of things going on. There’s people who come out of town to visit there, so I think it’s wise for the city to invest in that area,” Clements said.
The resolution did not revoke the special events permit for the Midland Street Social District, which allows the use of the 500 and 600 blocks of Midland Street and Linn Street between Midland Street and Vermont Street for outdoor events and includes permission for a stage to be set up. The permit and the existing street closures to traffic remain intact.
The resolution was the result of a week-long push to find a solution. Dockett previously told MLive – The Bay City Times that he held discussions with Bay City Manager Dana L. Muscott, Mayor Kathleen Newsham, Bay City Public Safety Director Michael J. Cecchini, and Midland Street bar owners for multiple days after a recent violent weekend.
Officers responded to an incident before 2 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27, in reference to a fight involving several people that began inside Lucky’s Pub & Grill, according to a Bay City Department of Public Safety news release.
The fight spilled outside the bar, where approximately 250 people were in the block that’s closed to vehicle traffic, according to the news release. Officers were initially unable to disperse the crowd due to its size and observed multiple brief physical altercations. Assistance was requested from additional law enforcement agencies.
Before the latest incident on Sept. 27, the area saw some other violent occurrences that required police intervention.
Officers were also dispatched to the 600 block of East Midland Street shortly before 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 16 for a report of a fight. Officers arrived and heard gunshots being fired. The incident culminated in one 27-year-old man being repeatedly shot and found by police in the 100 block of nearby South Linn Street.
A double stabbing took place earlier in July. Police reports contained in court records indicate that about 2:30 a.m. on Monday, July 20, officers responded to 605 E. Midland St. for a stabbing.
After introducing his resolution, Dockett gave a rundown of the Sept. 27 event based on his observations from reviewing body cam footage and surveillance video from area businesses, stating that there were gunshots and multiple altercations in the crowd.
“I did hear on bodycam footage that there were gunshots, it came over the radio and there were pops in the audio that sounded like gunshots,” said Dockett. “I would trust the police officers’ opinion on what gun shots sound like – if they say they heard gunshots, I would say they heard gunshots.”
Dockett said that he noted four different fights in the footage, which he stated he believe appeared to be unconnected, scattered throughout the area.
However, Dockett noted that he observed the crowd to be smaller than was initially reported by the Bay City Department of Public Safety, with his estimates coming at at approximately 100 – 125 individuals.
“I would not say that all of them were fighting, most of them were still having a good time in the street, but probably only 8-10 people that were doing the wrong thing,” said Dockett.
Prior to Dockett’s analysis, the accuracy of initial news reports regarding the incident was questioned by Midland Street business owner Jay Samborn during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“There was no fight in Lucky’s Pub that spilled out into the street that caused 250 people to brawl, there wasn’t, it was not true,” he said
Samborn also raised his concerns about the reports of gunshots, questioning their origin and location.
“It hasn’t been verified that there were gunshots for one, but they certainly weren’t on Midland Street and nobody could pinpoint or know where these were coming from,” said Samborn. “We have witnesses that said there was people throwing fireworks.”
A few bad eggs
Samborn expressed frustration during Monday night’s meeting while emphasizing how patrons have made a positive use of the street closures as well.
“There are some things that we need to address on Midland Street, and it’s not all bad, it’s definitely not all bad. It’s more good than bad, it’s not seen, it’s not talked about, it’s not heard of,” said Samborn. “Over the course of the summer since the commission has allowed us to close the streets, we put concert stage on a street – we had nearly 40 concerts on west side bay city on Midland Street. The concerts went typically from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at night, there was zero incidences yet 40 concerts on Midland Street.”
It was noted during the meeting by Midland Street business owners that it’s not the typical regular crowd that’s causing the issues – instead, it’s a small group that’s been stirring the pot.
“We have 99% great customers down there, there’s a handful of people that along with the police chief, and we have talked about it at length, we’re going to target in on those folks and we are going to start getting rid of the people who aren’t down there following the rules and protecting the people who are – who are the mass majority of people,” he said.
Matt Nemode of Mode’s Tavern explained to the commission during the public comment session how businesses like his are proactively working on getting after repeat offenders by making it known that the businesses are paying attention.
“As business owners we are paying attention to this very small group of troublemakers, we’ve got ban lists, we’ve got dialogue when they’re around, so they’re being identified so we are paying attention to them,” said Nemode.
Nemode opened Mode’s Tavern earlier this year, but what he’s seen so far business wise has been promising. He shared his observations with the commission during the meeting.
“What my wife and I’ve seen as business owners in a very short period of time is very encouraging is very encouraging to the direction that the district is going and where the business owners are taking it,” he said.
More from MLive:
Midland Street brawl, gunshots, have Bay City neighbors and officials seeking solutions to violence
Man charged in West Side Bay City shooting, city increases patrols of Midland Street district
Bay City working with Midland Street businesses after shooting, other incidents
Police arrest suspect in August shooting on Bay City’s West Side