Detroit Interim Police Chief Chester Logan, left, with Mayor Dave Bing speaks Thursday about the joint initiative to reduce violent crime. (Max Ortiz The Detroit News)
Detroit — Acknowledging that the city needs help reducing violent crime, local, state and federal law enforcement officials on Thursday announced an aggressive effort that will deploy state troopers and federal agents to neighborhoods, assign federal prosecutors to police precincts, and send officers door to door to engage citizens.
Mayor Dave Bing joined U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, interim Detroit Police Chief Chester Logan and others in unveiling "Detroit One," a program that emphasizes a unified, proactive approach to fighting crime, with a focus on narcotics-related offenses in high-crime areas identified as "hot zones."
Bing said it's time for agencies to get together to address the city's most pressing issue.
"Some would say it's the finances in our city, but I would say public safety is the biggest problem," he said. "When I look at my background in team sports, it's obvious to me that I'd rather play on a team than try to do this by myself."
Detroit One is modeled after programs in other cities that stress cooperation among law enforcement, city officials said, pointing to a similar program in Washington, D.C., that's credited with reducing murders from a high of 479 in the 1990s to 88 in 2012.
The goal of the program, which officials said won't use additional taxpayer money but will redeploy existing resources, is to reduce gun-related violent crime in Detroit by 25 percent in 2013.
"We're not satisfied with the crime statistics in this city," McQuade said. "Three hundred eighty-seven murders in our city (in 2012) is simply not tolerable."
The first phase of the initiative kicked off earlier this month, when police flooded neighborhoods in northeast and northwest Detroit. During two three-day periods — March 7-9 and March 14-16 — officers conducted 105 narcotics raids, made 245 arrests, confiscated 41 firearms and issued more than 4,500 traffic citations.
Logan said no violent crimes were committed in the targeted areas during the six days.
The effort involves the city; the Wayne County prosecutor and sheriff's offices; the state Corrections Department; the governor's office; Michigan State Police; the U.S. Justice Department; and the FBI and ATF, among other agencies.
Different from past efforts
Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw said 13 troopers have been deployed to patrol Detroit, with another 20 to come. That's in addition to the 12 troopers who have been patrolling the city for about a year.
"A lot of people in the neighborhoods are taken aback when they see troopers patrolling their communities, but we'll be out there," Shaw said.
Similar multijurisdictional efforts have been launched in recent years, but McQuade said she wasn't satisfied with them.
"We've worked hard together in the past, but when you look at the city's crime statistics, you can see it wasn't working," she said. "And when something's not working, you've got to try something else."
McQuade said three components of the new initiative hopefully will make it different from past efforts:
Law enforcement agencies will meet regularly to share information.
The initiative will be citywide rather than focusing on specific areas, as in the past.
Federal prosecutors will be assigned to each police precinct and district.
"Federal prosecutors will be on call 24/7 to help with search warrants and arrest warrants, and to provide legal advice," she said.
McQuade added that with the budget problems plaguing the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, which earlier this week forced traffic cases to be dismissed because prosecutors were laid off, her office would work to prosecute as many cases federally as possible.
"We're hoping the Wayne County prosecutor can work with us, but in light of what has happened, we're not counting on that," McQuade said.
Another component of the program: Officers will knock on doors in Detroit neighborhoods to spread the word about how to use tipster lines. Social media also will be used, officials said.
Former Police Chief Warren Evans launched a similar effort a few years ago, flooding high-crime areas with a group of officers known as the Mobile Strike Force. While the initiative led to more arrests and confiscated firearms, critics complained police were indiscriminately stopping motorists and pedestrians without probable cause.
Concerns about oversight
Ron Scott, director of the Detroit Coalition against Police Brutality, said he's concerned about the growing use of multijurisdictional task forces.
"The problem is, oversight is diminished when that happens," Scott said, pointing out that the City Charter mandates a citizen board — the Board of Police Commissioners — to watch over the Detroit Police Department.
"When you get all these other agencies involved in patrolling the city, it bypasses the oversight process," Scott said.
But resident Doncella Jones, who lives in one the city's most violent areas on the east side, said she welcomed the effort.
"It's long overdue and necessary," said Jones, 44. "Something has to be done."
McQuade said she will keep an open mind about the initiative, and make adjustments if necessary.