State Roundup

Grand Rapids
Biggest Michigan cities see more homicides in 2012

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s two largest cities, Detroit and Grand Rapids, have seen more homicides this year, even though the overall crime rate has remained steady.
Concern about public safety in several low-income urban areas prompted Gov. Rick Snyder to launch a new program aimed at sending state troopers into high-crime centers. With financially struggling cities cutting back on the number of officers on the street, Snyder has said he is concerned about their ability to adequately protect public safety.
With Snyder’s initiative, many troopers who graduated from training in October were sent to or near Detroit, Flint, Saginaw and Pontiac. They are among the top 10 U.S. cities of more than 50,000 residents with the worst violent crime rates.
Many Michigan communities have been losing law enforcement officers. State and local police agencies have an estimated 18,849 officers today, compared with 22,488 in 2001.
While crime overall has not been increasing, cities are seeing more slayings. Detroit had 375 homicides as of Dec. 16, compared to 344 in all of 2011.
In Grand Rapids, the state’s second most populous city, homicide numbers were boosted by a two-week spate of murders, police Capt. Jeffrey Hertel said.
The city hit a preliminary toll of 18 homicides for the year on Saturday. There were 17 killings in the city last year, compared with nine each in 2009 and 2010. Grand Rapids recorded 23 killings in 2006.
“We were at 11 up until Dec. 13th. We’ve had seven homicides since Dec. 14th,” Hertel said. “We can’t attribute it to one cause or factor. A couple may or may not be related. One is a domestic related shooting. We’ve got a couple that may be back and forth retaliation.
“If it’s happening in your neighborhood or on your block it’s an overwhelming concern.”
By Monday morning, 66 homicides had been reported in Flint — a tie with that city’s 2011 tally.
Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said better policing can only go so far in preventing homicides given the widespread availability of assault weapons and persistent inner-city poverty.
“The plague of gun violence claimed too many lives this year in Flint,” he said in a statement Monday. “Solving the problem of crime and violence involves dealing with the core economic challenges of being a post-industrial city. ... It is clear that the problem of illegal and military-style guns is widespread and is a major contributing factor to the homicide levels.”
“A comprehensive solution to gun violence requires serious reforms at the federal and state levels to prevent dangerous individuals from attaining firearms and to get military-style assault weapons off our streets,” he said.
Saginaw surpassed last year’s 12 homicides by July. Through Dec. 22, there were 30 murders in that city.

Detroit
2013 auto sales will be strong, firm predicts

DETROIT (AP) — An auto industry research firm says an improving economy and a host of new models should push U.S. auto sales above 15 million this year.
The Polk research firm says auto sales should continue to lead the country’s economic recovery. Polk predicts 15.3 million new vehicle registrations this year, up nearly 7 percent from 2012.
Automakers release December and full-year sales for 2012 on Thursday. Analysts predict sales of around 14.5 million, the strongest year since 2007.
Polk expects 43 new models to be introduced this year, up 50 percent from last year. New models usually boost sales. The company also predicts a rebound in large pickup truck sales.
But the optimistic forecast firm hinges on Washington reaching agreement on spending cuts that could happen later in the year.

Dearborn
Priest found nude, driving drunk is given probation

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — A Detroit-area priest accused of driving naked and drunk has been placed on probation after pleading no contest to impaired driving.
Attorneys say the Rev. Peter Petroske also pleaded no contest to a charge of disorderly conduct, related to his lack of clothes. Both are misdemeanors.
Petroske appeared in court in Dearborn on Dec. 27, about five months after police stopped his car near Sacred Heart Church in Dearborn, where he was the pastor. His attorney, Ed Zelenek, said Wednesday that the priest is being treated in Pennsylvania for an alcohol problem.
Petroske was suspended by the Detroit Roman Catholic Archdiocese after the summer incident. Zelenek says he wants to return to service when his therapy is completed.

Plymouth
Manufacturing Technology Center gets cash boost

PLYMOUTH, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center is getting a more than $1.1 million boost from the federal government.
U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin of Michigan recently announced the Department of Commerce grant for the Plymouth-based center. Its aim is to help small- and medium-sized manufacturers throughout the state expand and create new high-tech jobs.
The center also has offices in Grand Rapids, Marquette, Saginaw, and Traverse City.
The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center is the Michigan affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

East Lansing
MSU developing new chestnut rot detection system

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Researchers at Michigan State University are developing a way to tell if chestnuts are rotten without opening them.
To help assure that chestnuts reach market in good condition, the research team is working to create a noninvasive method of detecting internal decay in the fruit.
They’re involved in assessing the various imaging techniques currently available.
So far, it seems that CT scans work better than X-rays, MRIs and other techniques.
Known as CT, computerized tomography combines a series of X-rays taken from different angles and computer processing to create cross-sectional images.
The U.S. produces only about 1 percent of the world’s chestnuts, and Michigan is the national leader.

Lake Erie
Lake Erie is 2nd-most threatened of Great Lakes

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Lake Erie is one of the most threatened of the five Great Lakes as a result of toxic blue-green algae and invasive species of fish, mussels and plants, according to a new report.
The Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping Project concluded that Lake Erie was the second-most threatened of the lakes, behind Lake Ontario.
Researchers with the assessment project spent more than three years collecting data on 34 lake "stressors" — including invasive species, climate change and pollution, The Columbus Dispatch reported on Monday.
Peter McIntyre, a mapping-project researcher with the University of Wisconsin's Center for Limnology, said he hopes the computer-generated "threat map" highlighting the areas with the biggest problems will help officials who award hundreds of millions of dollars in grants each year to help clean up and protect the lakes. Those lakes with the worst status could attract more of that money, which mostly comes from the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
The new map shows Lake Ontario as the most threatened because of widespread mercury and PCB pollution and problems stemming from invasive sea lampreys and zebra and quagga mussels. But Ohio advocates and experts have argued that Lake Erie is the most-threatened of the Great Lakes.
"It's hard to imagine that any other Great Lake would be in more trouble," said Sandy Bihn, director of the Toledo-based Lake Erie Waterkeeper advocacy group.
Researchers in 2011 tracked a record-size "bloom" of the toxic algae in Lake Erie. Satellite photos that year showed the algae, which produces a nerve toxin that can sicken humans and kill pets and other animals, stretching from Toledo to Cleveland. Rains wash manure, fertilizers and sewage into the lake, contaminating widespread areas with nitrogen and phosphorus that feed the algae.
Lake Erie appears to lead other lakes in sediment problems from erosion and in invasive shoreline reeds called phragmites and the invasive round goby fish, although zebra and quagga mussels are more concentrated in Lake Ontario, according to the map.
Lake Erie also apparently has been harmed by climate change, with maps showing a large loss of winter ice cover in Erie and in Lake Superior.

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