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When Detroit police are searching for violent criminals, police chief James Craig often warns them through the news media: "We know who you are. We're going to find you. So do yourself a favor: turn yourself in."

Craig said Wednesday he feels confident making that statement because of the Headquarters Surveillance Unit, which is charged with finding and arresting wanted suspects.

The unit of undercover officers was honored Wednesday with a ceremony at Public Safety Headquarters.

"They're the ones who go out at two and three in the morning when we have a homicide," Craig said. "So when I make that statement that 'we'll find you,' I do it because I have confidence in (the unit's) ability to find the perpetrators of these crimes."

Craig said since 2016, the unit has made 743 arrests of "high profile" suspects, including 415 homicide suspects. Last year, the unit arrested 127 suspects for murder; 13 for rape; 27 for fatal accidents causing serious injuries; 11 for assault with intent to murder; 2 for arson; 4 child abuse suspects; and 8 witnesses who were ordered detained.

"We ended last year with the lowest number of homicides in 50 years, and ... we're trending down again this year," Craig said. "When you talk about homicide reduction, you can't discount the work of a unit like this."

During Wednesday's ceremony, Craig presented a sergeant in the unit, whose name is being withheld because he's undercover, with a red ribbon that'll be worn on unit members' uniforms. He also awarded the sergeant a Chief's Citation.

Cmdr. Tiffany Stewart, who oversees the surveillance unit. said: "Make no bones about it: The work they do is extremely dangerous, but they come into work and arrest violent offenders who crate havoc in our neighborhoods, and they do it with respect to the community."

Craig highlighted three cases the Headquarters Surveillance Unit was involved in: 

  • A 32-year-old woman was going to testify in a Harper Woods carjacking case, when she was fatally shot on Oct. 9, 2018, in the 16000 block of Collingham in Detroit. "In a matter of days, this unit was able to locate and arrest two suspects involved in this crime." The men were charged with first-degree murder. A third suspect was arrested Jan. 31 and similarly charged, Craig said.
  • After Detroit fire fighter Jack Wiley was fatally shot in his home in August, the unit arrested the alleged gunmen. "Within three days of his homicide, it was this team, along with (the Special Response Team) that was able to locate two suspects and take them into custody," Craig said.
  • On Feb. 21 2018, two suspects tried to rob a man as he changed his tire in a parking lot in the 9000 block of Woodside. The man resisted the robbery and was fatally shot. "Headquarters Surveillance located the suspects, and they were taken into custody," Craig said.

Assistant police chief David LeValley, who was once a member of the Headquarters Surveillance Unit, said the squad in its current form began in 2014.

"There were different iterations," he said. "In 2014 ... there was a decision to embed the unit with Homicide, so they'd be closely connected while investigating the most serious crimes.

"It's been an honor and a privilege of mine to oversee the ... unit, and to know there's a group of officers who are so highly-skilled ... who get the job done, and rarely ask for any accolades in return."

ghunter@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2134
Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN

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