Homicide police are only as good as their sources. Crime Stoppers offers an anonymous way to report murderous criminals. Call Crime Stoppers at (800) SPEAK-UP. (Steve Perez / The Detroit News)
Last week, a 13-year-old Detroit kid was forced at gunpoint to remove his True Religion jeans and his North Face coat. He walked home in the cold in his boxers and boots.
Last Thursday, a Detroit woman, 45, was sexually assaulted after she and her 12-year-old daughter were kidnapped at a gas station and held for a $200 ransom.
Is that enough?
How about the cries of “Help! Hellllpppp! As loud as I could” from Detroiter Ruby Warr, 85, who relived her life-changing experience on the nightly news in October after she and her husband, Wilber, 88, were carjacked in their driveway. “The one guy got him with the gun ... and told him ‘Sit down!’” Ruby said. “Then he said, ‘Empty your pockets! Empty your pockets!’”
The gunman demanded Wilber’s ring and bracelet, while the second robber pulled the rings off his wife’s fingers.
Is that enough?
A Detroit woman was at a stoplight last month when she saw two men wearing ski masks and waving guns jump out of a car and head her way. In fear, she drove into oncoming traffic, causing a five-car accident that left her in critical condition.
Earlier this month, a Detroiter was walking his dog when a man put a shotgun in his face, demanding money. When the victim said he had none, the robber pointed the gun at his dog, so the man gave up the keys to his Jeep. An hour later, in the same neighborhood, a couple walking their dog were robbed.
Criminals are out firebombing homes — whether children are asleep inside or not. People are robbed in drive-bys and at bus stops — including schoolchildren. Meanwhile, carjackings are increasing at stoplights, including during the day. Recently, a carjacker even took his victim’s tracheotomy tube.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig called these sorts of perpetrators “urban terrorists.” It’s this frustration — the cry of “enough is enough” — that caused the activation of the Detroit 300 Community Action Team. Our president, Eric Ford, declares: “How much is enough for Detroiters to stop talking and do something — the police cannot be everywhere. We must be our neighbor’s keeper.”
The Detroit 300 Community Action Team — birthed in place of the original defunct Detroit 300 (founded by Raphael Johnson and me) — shares the same mission: “Its sole focus is to help communities organize to eradicate crime by patrolling targeted areas and collectively pursuing information on individuals who wreak havoc, mayhem, and terror — including murder, shootings, rape, burglary, robbery, assault and battery — against the elderly, women and children.”
The Detroit 300 Community Action Team is not a vigilante group. It fights with information by patrolling and collecting tips that help police.
Years ago, seniors, women and children were a protected class — even among thieves. That’s not the case today. In fact, the vulnerable appear more attractive to criminals.
Though women play an active role in the Detroit 300 Community Action Team, these volunteers are largely men.
Husbands. Fathers. Brothers. Nephews. Cousins. Some of these men are reformed bad guys, having served time in prison and repented and now seeking redemption through service. Others are just regular guys who refuse to let the bad guys win.
Here are some street-level observations:
■ Community involvement in crime fighting is critical. Block clubs are vital. Neighborhood watch groups are priceless. Neighborhood citizen patrols are essential. Churches must also take part in this movement, perhaps encouraging men to move beyond the pews into the streets. At least, patrolling around their churches regularly would be a start.
■ Don’t snitch, just tell. The “no snitching” policy of the streets — advocating that people not share criminal information with the police that actually started as not telling on a mutual thief — is as painful as a fatal bullet to our neighborhoods.
Similarly, profiting or enjoying the spoils from criminal activity is a community cancer. How do you watch a 50-inch flat screen that was a gift from your son who has no job?
■ Ultimately, we have to improve our relationships with our neighbors. There was a time when neighbors mattered. There was a one-woman neighborhood patrol: the nosy neighbor. She’d see everything happening on the block and reported each detail to parents or the police. Decades ago, if your mom was cooking and she realized she was short of sugar or flour, she’d send you next door to borrow some until she could get to the store. Nowadays, many can’t name the people living on their block.
Angelo B. Henderson is the host of “Your Voice with Angelo Henderson,” 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Newstalk AM 1200 and 99.9FM WCHB and a minister and director of evangelism and outreach at Triumph Church, as well as spiritual adviser
to the Detroit 300 Community Action Team.