Detroit — A gang-related shooting Thursday that left one person dead and four others wounded is part of a recent spike in violence in the last few weeks in the city’s 9th Precinct that’s prompted Detroit’s police chief to deploy a special response team.
As of Friday, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said there’s been a 24 percent increase in non-fatal shootings in the northeast section of the city so far this year over the same period in 2016, representing 26 more shootings; but there’s been a 24 percent reduction in homicides in the precinct, down nine from the same period last year.
Craig said he put the team in place to address the recent spike.
In Thursday’s incident, several gunshots were fired from a vehicle, believed to be a dark late-model Oldsmobile Alero, at about 8:35 p.m. in the 11000 block of Gunston, police said. One victim, identified only as male, was pronounced dead at the scene, while four others, including a female, were rushed to a hospital. One of them was listed in critical condition, with the others in stable condition, police said.
“We believe this was a gang-related shooting, and we’re reacting accordingly,” Craig said.
Police patrols in the 9th Precinct were augmented by Michigan State Police under Gov. Rick Snyder’s Secure Cities initiative until September when troopers pulled out of the precinct following an August incident in which a state trooper reportedly used his Taser on 15-year-old ATV driver Damon Grimes, who crashed into a flatbed and died.
Officials with the state police said they stopped patrolling the area because they didn’t want to rile residents who were upset about Grimes’ death, which is still under investigation.
Both Craig and Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw insisted Friday they don’t think the recent increase in violence in the 9th Precinct is related to state police halting patrols there.
“I don’t think that’s had a significant impact,” Craig said. “I can see where that might be the perception, but we’re not seeing it.”
Shaw added: “Anytime you have a situation like (state troopers pulling out of a precinct), we’re always going to look for answers, but it’s hard to make the conclusion that troopers not patrolling there has added to the violence. We still respond to calls; we responded to the (multiple shooting Thursday), along with another shooting.”
Detroit police crime stats show decreases in many crime categories in the 9th Precinct between Sept. 1 — when state police stopped patrolling the area — and Dec. 1, compared with the same period in 2016.
During that time, according to police statistics, aggravated assaults in the precinct dropped from 361 to 354; simple assaults fell from 467 to 313; arsons increased from 47 to 58; burglaries dropped from 330 to 289; and robberies decreased from 111 to 81.
Johnny West, 67, who lives in the precinct, said he hears six or seven instances of gunshots a night in his neighborhood.
“I’d say it’s gotten worse lately. There’s been a lot of break-ins; they broke into my garage (Thursday),” he said. “They took my snowblower, chainsaw, battery charger and two leaf blowers. I’ve got insurance, but with the deductible, that’ll come out of my pocket.”
Craig said despite the spike in the 9th Precinct, crime citywide is trending down. He added the city is on pace to record the lowest number of homicides in 50 years.
“As of today, we’re down 31 homicides, which is an 11 percent decrease,” Craig said. “There are currently 254 homicides this year, so if we don’t have a rash of them in the last month of the year, it’ll be the lowest number in years.”
In 2015, Detroit police reported 295 criminal homicides — the first time since 1967 the city logged fewer than 300 homicides.
In 2016, killings increased to 302, according to DPD stats.
Craig said as of Friday non-fatal shootings were down 12 percent, robberies down 15 percent and carjackings down 17 percent. Aggravated assaults are down 5 percent this year, Craig added.
“There’s been a recent spike in the 9th Precinct, but overall we’re trending downward,” he said.