Detroit Police Chief James Craig (David Coates)
Detroit — When Police Chief James Craig assumed command of the Detroit Police Department July 1, he set a “soft goal” of reducing the city’s crime rate by 5 percent from last year.
On Wednesday, Craig said he’s exceeded that goal. Overall crime is down 5.5 percent in 2013 compared to the same period last year, while violent crimes are down 6 percent, he said. There have been 41 fewer homicides than during the same period in 2012, a 16 percent drop from 303 killings last year to 262 this year.
Craig credited the drop in part to initiatives he’s enacted since becoming police chief, including employing the COMPSTAT policing model, which takes a microscopic look at crime trends, and Operation Restore, in which police monitor parolees and probationers who committed violent crimes.
“This is not by accident,” Craig said. “We know these strategies work.
“I always say one murder is one too many, but a 16 percent reduction in homicides means we’re trending in the right direction,” Craig said.
Craig said reaching out to the community, via “Call to Action” forums and recent meetings with gas station owners and grocers, has helped.
“This couldn’t have been accomplished without the citizens,” he said.
Walter Burton, 54, who lives in the high-crime Brightmoor district in northwest Detroit, said it seems like Craig is moving in the right direction — but he said he’s not seeing the results in his neighborhood near Plymouth and Evergreen.
“I don’t really care about numbers; you can juggle numbers any way you want, but it seems like (Craig) is doing some positive things. Walking the streets, though, nothing’s changed.
“I’m glad the chief is focusing on carjackings, but the murders? That’s usually people who know each other, people in gangs, or have some kind of beef with each other,” Burton said. “These things go in cycles. But I do think the chief is doing a good job so far.”
Craig said police officer morale is up, which also helps reduce crime.
“We’re still dealing with the (10 percent) reduction in pay, but with police officers having a voice, they feel like they’re making a contribution,” he said. “We’ve eliminated the 12-hour shifts, which has boosted morale. If you want to reduce crime, there’s a direct correlation with officer morale.”
Detroit Police Officers Association President Mark Diaz said Craig is doing what he can to increase officer morale, but that there are things out of the chief’s control that are dragging it down.
“We’re on a teeter-totter with morale,” Diaz said. “The chief is definitely working diligently, and in most regards has been successful in improving the morale of the front-line patrol officers. The problem we’re having is, we have issues not under the chief’s control; specifically the health insurance issue that’s reared its ugly head.”
Diaz pointed to Monday’s decision by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to change city employees’ health care benefits, forcing them to choose either Blue Cross or HAP.
“A little over 1,400 of our members were using U.S. Health as their medical insurance provider, and the emergency manager’s refusal to allow them to continue to use U.S. Health certainly isn’t helping with morale,” Diaz said. “But those are the things the chief has no control over.”
Craig said there are more changes on the horizon which will help continue to reduce crime.
“Soon, we’ll be rolling out our new Gang Intelligence Unit and new Tactical Services Section, which will be tied to COMPSTAT to address crime hot spots,” he said. “We’re poised to drive crime down even further.”