Dustin Dwyer

Reporter/Producer

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter on the State of Opportunity project, based in Grand Rapids. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.

In 2010, Dustin left journalism to be a stay-at-home dad. Now that his daughter Irene is turning two, he's happy to be back at Michigan Radio, where there are far fewer temper-tantrums. 

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Families & Community
6:00 am
Wed September 17, 2014

Many Michigan cities are reporting a drop in homicides so far this year. Can the trend last?

Credit flickr/diversey

The numbers are down 30% in Flint.

They were down 70% in Saginaw through July. Down 66% in Grand Rapids through June. Down 14% in Detroit, and on pace for the lowest annual total in decades.

The reports are preliminary, but homicides in many of Michigan’s cities are way down compared to last year.

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Policy
12:01 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

One weird trick that's proven to help prevent violence in your neighborhood

Credit flickr/thomashawk

Virginia Commonwealth University's  Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development has a lot of research projects aimed at helping young people succeed.

One of those projects is a community surveillance system that tracks ambulance calls, emergency room visits, and other data to track levels of violence across neighborhoods in Richmond, Virginia.

In 2003, researchers from the Institute reported to local community members on a not-so-surprising correlation they'd discovered: Rates of violence were higher near convenience stores that sold "inexpensive, single-serve alcoholic beverages."

A paper published by Institute researchers last year described what happened next: 

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Families & Community
6:44 am
Wed September 10, 2014

"I want people to not be afraid to reach out and help someone else."

Joy Mohammed and Paris Brown
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

People who manage to overcome poverty in childhood don't succeed by accident. They work hard, of course, but usually, they also have some help.  And often, that help can be traced back to one person who decided to make a difference.

We're running an occasional series about the people who make that decision. We’re calling this series, "One Person Who Cared." To share your story of the One Person Who Cared, click here

Joy Mohammed and Paris Brown are loosely connected through family. They met once at a wedding. Then they became neighbors in the Russell Woods neighborhood of Detroit. Mohammed, who is nine years older than Brown, helped tutor her with schoolwork, and checked up on her at her house.

"I wouldn’t call myself a visitor. I was snooping," Mohammed says with a laugh. "I was watching to make sure that the kids were okay."

"Were you?" I ask Brown.

"Um, no …"

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Education
8:38 am
Wed September 3, 2014

When you want to play, but you have dreams that require work

Musa, a new fourth-grader.
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

On the last lazy Sunday of summer, Musa lies down on the living room floor to play with his cat Romeo. Later today there will be shopping for school clothes, and maybe some time to play. But for now, Musa just hangs out, not using any more energy than is absolutely necessary.

"Tell me about your summer," I say.

"It was all right," he says.

"What’d you do?"

"Uh, nothing really," he says. "I just really played outside."

"Did you have fun?"

"Yeah."

"Did you forget everything you learned in third grade?"

"Nope."

"Are you looking forward to going back to school?"

“A little.”

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Families & Community
1:11 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Want out of poverty? Move.

Credit flickr/heatherweaver

In the summer of 1994, my family hitched a U-Haul trailer to the back of my mom's Ford LTD station wagon and drove it to the other side of the country. We went just about as far as you can go without a passport – from the coast of Oregon to central Florida. 

In Oregon, we were surrounded by friends and family, but we were poor. We lived in a public housing project. We paid for our groceries with food stamps. My mom was a part-time community college student, with a daycare business on the side. My dad worked on the back of a fishing boat. My mom wanted to get her bachelor's degree. My dad wanted a job with more stability. Neither could find what they were looking for in North Bend, Oregon in 1994. So we moved. 

The move took us from the mild, rain-soaked Pacific Northwest to the sweltering humidity of the Florida summer in a matter of weeks. I had to learn how to say things like "y'all" and "my bad." I ate grits, and I didn't like them. I missed my old friends, and I was a complete, awkward failure at making new ones. 

It was the best thing that ever happened to me. 

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Families & Community
9:24 am
Wed August 27, 2014

11 years before Ferguson, there was outrage in Benton Harbor. Have things changed?

Part of the new arts district in downtown Benton Harbor.
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

It’s not a new story:

A young black man dies after an encounter with police. A community takes to the streets to demand answers. Their protest turns violent, and the national media takes notice. When calm is restored, there are promises. This time will be different. This time things will change.

That was the scene 11 years ago in Benton Harbor, a scene not unlike today in Ferguson, Missouri.

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Justice
6:00 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Here's what we know (and what we don't know) about the use of force by police in America

Credit flickr/uneditedmedia

Before Mike Brown, before Kajieme Powell. Before Eric Garner. Before John Crawford. Before Ezell Ford. Before Sean Bell. Before Ramarley Graham. Before Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Malice Green and Keenan Ellsberry. Before Derek Copp. Before even Amadou Diallo, Rodney King, or any of the other names you might have heard.

Before any of these people were shot, or beaten or choked by police, citizens have questioned the use of force by police officers in America. 

We know that the ability to use force when necessary is central to the role of a public police officer. But who keeps track of when and why police officers use force?

It turns out, it's incredibly difficult for average citizens to find out. Police departments don't report how often they use force. Most of what we learn comes from the extreme cases that make the news

For a more representative picture, we have to rely on the work of outside researchers. 

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Education
7:24 am
Wed August 20, 2014

One way to avoid tears on the first day of kindergarten

Abigail, a soon-to-be kindergartner.
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

A little before 9 a.m. Monday, it’s time to clean up the morning work in the KinderCamp classroom at MLK Leadership Academy in Grand Rapids.

The free, week-long program is happening at four schools in low-income neighborhoods around Grand Rapids.

At MLK, nine children showed up on the first day.  The idea of KinderCamp is to ease kids into the experience of entering kindergarten.

Sitting on a blue carpet, kindergarten teacher Tina Watson leads a discussion with her KinderCampers.

"Can you say, expectations?" she asks them.

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Families & Community
8:21 am
Wed August 13, 2014

Offering a place to call home when home isn't an option

The Kids First building, an emergency foster shelter at D.A. Blodgett - St. John's in Grand Rapids.
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Rosslyn Bliss leads the way across a boardwalk on a five-acre piece of land on the north side of Grand Rapids to a one-story light-brown building. This building is an emergency shelter for kids who’ve been removed from their home by the state. 

"We serve ... medically fragile children, we serve children with developmental disabilities, whatever they're struggling with, whatever child comes to our door, whatever their current state is, we take care of them," says Bliss. 

This campus is run by D.A. Blodgett - St. John's in Grand Rapids.

This building is exclusively for kids who’ve been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect and have nowhere else to go.

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Families & Community
11:59 am
Thu August 7, 2014

Where is suburban poverty growing fastest in Michigan? Grand Rapids.

Credit Terry Johnston/Wikimedia Commons

A recent research brief from the Brookings Institution takes a look at the startling rise of concentrated poverty in America over the past decade or so. 

The brief finds that the number of neighborhoods in the U.S. where at least 40% of residents are considered poor has risen by more than 70% since 2000. That is to say, poverty has become more concentrated in certain areas. That's significant because the Brookings researchers say people living in areas of concentrated poverty face a "double burden" – their own poverty, and the poverty of those around them:

The challenges of poor neighborhoods – including worse health outcomes, higher crime rates, failing schools, and fewer job opportunities – make it that much harder for individuals and families to escape poverty and often perpetuate and entrench poverty across generations. These factors affect not only the residents and communities touched by concentrated disadvantage, but also the regions they inhabit and the ability of those metro areas to grow in inclusive and sustainable ways.

The problem of concentrated poverty has been spreading to places you might not expect: the suburbs. Brookings finds that the number of neighborhoods with at least 40% of people living in poverty has grown by 150% in the suburbs since 2000. That's about triple the rate of growth in urban areas during the same time. 

And there's one metropolitan area in Michigan where the rise of suburban poverty stands out: Grand Rapids. 

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