Detroit police have new plans to prevent downtown violence
Downtown visitors this weekend will notice more police and other changes after a wave of shootings in Detroit’s entertainment district.
Detroit Police Chief James White and Mayor Mike Duggan held a Thursday press conference outlining a 12-point plan for increased enforcement a day after the city joined federal, county and state partners to announce a federal partnership to disrupt violence.
The city’s plan calls for more officers on the streets, road closures, stronger enforcement of Detroit’s youth curfew and open alcohol ordinances, a crime hotline and rewards for tipsters. White said there will be a heavy focus on catching people who bring illegal firearms downtown.
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“For the safety of our business owners, employees, residents and those who live, work and play in our city, you’re going to see an increased police presence going forward,” said White, flanked by Detroit community figures leading violence intervention efforts.
Police reported two fatal shootings and six non-fatal shootings between Saturday and Sunday. Two people were arrested in the killing of security guard Daryll Straughter. Four others were arrested in connection with nonfatal shootings and two more were arrested for aggravated assault and a gun crime.
Seven people were arrested for carrying a concealed weapon and 12 minors were found in violation of the youth curfew.
White said the incidents last weekend and larger than expected crowds necessitated a shift to the police department’s summer deployment numbers earlier than usual. White said the deployment last weekend was “comprehensive,” but that adding more uniformed and undercover officers will improve the chances of preventing violence and collecting illegal weapons.
Duggan said more people are coming downtown as the city increases housing options and destinations for entertainment, shopping and dining. That means the city needs to do more to manage busy crowds, he said.
“We are seeing crowds like we haven’t seen in decades,” Duggan said. “Great cities handle large crowds in their downtown areas weekend after weekend without incident and we are going to learn that as well. The vast majority of people who were down here last weekend experienced a very good time. Now our goal is to make sure everybody that comes down this weekend has a good time.”
White also expressed concerns about firearms falling into the hands of young people. He noted that American gun ownership is at an all-time high, spurred by spikes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are millions more guns on the street in this country,” White said. “With that comes millions more people who need to be responsible with gun ownership. You have to wonder where people are securing their weapons and how kids are getting those weapons. Frankly, people are more responsible with their cell phones than they are with guns.”
Church of the Messiah Pastor Barry Randolph said it’s far too easy to obtain an illegal weapon.
“Any young person that I ask ‘can you get a gun today?’ they say ‘yes,’” Randolph said after the press conference. “They know where the access is. But where is the access to other things (like) employment, education? How come it’s easier to get something that is fatal to them than something that can give them life and opportunity? What does that say about our community?”
Detroit’s police chief said he met with City Council President Mary Sheffield Thursday and a group of eight Greektown business representatives to develop solutions. He acknowledged Council Member Mary Waters’ proposal to create gun-free zones downtown, but White said state law prevents it. Instead, White plans to focus on identifying illegal weapons.
White said police analysts monitor the downtown in real-time through a network of surveillance cameras. The “Eagle Eye” program will be supported with a new hotline for businesses to report incidents or suspicious behavior. Large screens will be placed in busy locations to show residents they are being videotaped as well, he said.
Businesses will be able to use new Evolv walkthrough scanners to detect concealed firearms entering their establishments. Only illegal weapons will be confiscated, White said.
Parents will be ticketed if they ignore a 10 p.m. city curfew for children 15 and under and a curfew of 11 p.m. for minors between 16 and 17. White said minors roaming the downtown without a parent or guardian will be detained at the 4th precinct on 4700 W. Fort St. Parents could be hit with a $500 fine.
“This is not about targeting kids. It’s about keeping kids safe, and making sure that the parents know their children are not in harm’s way either,” White said.
White said streets will close in Greektown after 2 a.m. and police will use strategic shutdowns as needed. More focus will be put on enforcing the Detroit Riverwalk closure after 10 p.m. New signage will be placed downtown to warn about unlawful alcohol consumption and noise ordinances.
“We’re going to enforce public alcohol consumption,” White said. “It is not legal to walk in a public street with open intoxicants and a cup or an open bottle of liquor.”
White is also encouraging people to report tips anonymously to detroitrewards.tv or by calling 1-800-SPEAK-UP to receive a cash reward. Tipsters will earn $250 for reports that lead to the confiscation of illegal guns or ATVs.
Community leader Quincy Smith joined the Thursday news conference and promoted efforts to build relationships with young people through the city’s Ceasefire intervention program. Darrell Woods, a community activist, called on Black residents to “have some self-determination” and reject the cycle of violence.
“We’re here to say to the parents and to the young people to love yourselves,” Woods said.
Pastor Maurice “Mo” Hardwick called for making downtown a “no beef zone.” He said if the violence continues, people will lose confidence in the city.
“What I saw (last weekend) was groups of young people showing up to settle beef downtown because it’s a ritual place,” Hardwick said. “Get the word out to every barber shop, every basketball court, to schools. (Police) are not going to allow you to takeover the city.”
Minister Freedom Allah with The People’s Action, a community advocacy nonprofit, said there has to be partnerships between police and residents.
“The more we’re able to build that relationship to where we’re able to de-escalate situations, cut situations off before they start and correct issues in the home and in the community, we can reduce what we see here,” Allah said. “The more we create this cohesive relationship, the more we’re able to solve the problem.”
White said the downtown deployment won’t take resources away from neighborhoods. White said the police department has a “pretty healthy budget” of $300 million to cover overtime costs.
“We have patrol minimums that have to be met,” White said. “There will be no loss in service. This detail will come from new police officers and strategically deployed veteran police officers and my overtime budget.”
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