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Interim chief talks change in Muskegon Heights | News

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Interim chief talks change in Muskegon Heights

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WZZM) -- "We will make them very uncomfortable, and we will either get them to change their behavior or get them to go some place else."

That's the message to criminals, from the man hired to lead the Muskegon Heights Police Department for now and help find a permanent chief.

Dr. Joseph Thomas Jr. is a Muskegon Heights outsider, called on to bring change to the city's police department and community.

Thursday, Thomas outlined his vision for the community, as the city is filling so many vacant leadership positions.

"It is a very exciting time in the city of Muskegon Heights," newly-installed Mayor Kimberly Sims said. She added that by the end of this year, the city may have three new commissioners, a new police chief, and new city manager. "That is a very critical position that we need to take our time and go into; we do not need to rush it."

Thomas said Thursday he'll make the police department a leader in that time. "I am not going to compete for the job, and so it will not be permanent for me," he said. Adding he has no idea how long he will lead the department, his time in front of the camera Thursday was primarily to meet members of the media -- but his message was mostly directed at criminals who think they have refuge in this community. "Our messaging is CTSO: cut that stuff out."

Thomas says he wants the police department and residents to have zero-tolerance for crime. "There are some people who do not need to be here, because you are bringing your bad behavior and your bad friends into this area."

Interim chief Thomas says officers will be encouraged to have more non-emergency interaction with members of the community.  The police department will also play a greater role in enforcing the city's building code.

Last year, the city removed more than 50 condemned homes.  Thomas hopes to work with homeowners and community groups to remove smaller signs of blight, like broken windows and graffiti.

He's quick to give credit to the city's new leadership for bringing in an outsider like him to push change in an effort to make the city safer. "You know what I like about Muskegon Heights?  They know they got an issue and are willing to work on it.  You got some cities that got an issue and won't work on it.  And we watch the negative things keep happening.  We want that to stop in Muskegon Heights."

Thomas said his work is to reduce and prevent crime -- not just temporarily while he's with the city, but after he leaves, too.


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