June 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Residents: Criminals getting bolder

It's like 'Wild West' out there, they claim, but police chief says attackers aren't more brazen

Theresa Donovan, left, Robin Murphy and Frances White talk about recent robberies on the southwest side. “They just come up to you in broad daylight and rob you,” says Murphy, who was assaulted. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

Detroit— A spate of recent brazen crimes has residents and business owners concerned that criminals in Detroit are becoming bolder than ever.

Among the high-profile crimes committed in broad daylight: The Rev. Marvin Winans was carjacked at a northwest Detroit gas station; an 18-year-old man allegedly tried to rape a woman while she pushed her 6-month-old daughter in a stroller; antique-store owner Nathan Feingold was beaten to death with a baseball bat inside his shop, and former Detroit Police Chief Stanley Knox was robbed while mowing his lawn.

"These criminals don't care," said Dorothy Dunn, who was robbed at gunpoint just after she opened her bar, the Dunn Inn, about 9 a.m. May 15. "They've hit every bar around here — day, night, it doesn't matter."

If the gunmen were afraid of getting caught, they didn't show it — in fact, one of the men sang to Dunn during the heist, she said.

"The guy was in his own little world; he was higher than a kite," said Dunn, 70, who has owned the bar on Kelly Road for nine years.

"Those were some nice-sized guns; they're something to look at when they're pointed right in your face," she said. "It was an experience I don't want to go through again."

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee said the high-profile nature of those crimes may lead people to believe criminals are more brazen than ever.

"For instance, the (Winans carjacking) — I think some of that perception has to do with the high profile of the victim. Was it a brazen attack? Of course it was. But the typical carjacking doesn't happen during the day."

But Robin Murphy, 50, who was among several southwest Detroit residents whose gold chains were snatched off their necks recently, said criminals have gotten more aggressive.

"They just come up to you in broad daylight and rob you," said Murphy, who was assaulted as she walked to a store to buy desserts for her grandchildren.

"Detroit is like the Wild West."

Dale Bender, a former Detroit police officer who retired in 2004 after 35 years, said criminals have become emboldened because the city has about 1,000 fewer officers than it did a decade ago.

"Criminals aren't afraid of the police anymore — not one bit," Bender said. "There aren't enough coppers; all they do is jump from one run to the other. And the criminals know that."

One 53-year-old east side resident, who said she hid in a bathtub last month while her house was riddled with bullets by men who were fighting with her son, is afraid to go outside day or night.

"It's literally like a war zone out there," said the woman, who did not want her name used because she feared retaliation.

"It doesn't matter if it's night or day; drive down Chene some day and you'll see: These thugs are out there all day doing what they want."