Detroit police launching take-home vehicle program

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Detroit — Chief James Craig on Thursday launched a neighborhood police officer take-home vehicle program to increase visibility and deter crime in the city.

Officer Baron Coleman of the 8th precinct received a marked 2004 Crown Victoria restored by Sam Hussein of Metrotech Automotive Group in Corktown.

"I'm thrilled to be a part of the project," Coleman said at a morning press conference outside Detroit Public Safety Headquarters. "I love God, I love my city, and I love my police department.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig hands keys to Officer Baron Coleman of the 8th Precinct after launching a neighborhood police officer take-home vehicle program on Thursday. The car was renovated by Sam Hussein, owner of Metrotech Automotive Group in Corktown.

"I just hope this betters the police department and helps the community know we're here for them."

The car has 40,000 miles on it and is fully equipped with new interior equipment to allow Coleman to fulfill his duties effectively, Craig said.

"We work with our community; we make relationships," Craig said. "And this is just another step in the right direction."

Coleman said he is not afraid of being targeted because of the marked vehicle in his neighborhood.

"I have a strong belief in God, and I believe God put officers in this world to protect people," he said. "I can only fear the Lord. He's my No. 1 partner."

Coleman also said he spoke with neighbors before accepting the vehicle and they were enthusiastic about the visible police presence. The officer said he lives in the city's Sixth precinct, off Plymouth Road near River Rouge Park.

"My car is going to be parked on my street," he said. "I think (my neighbors) want it parked in their driveways."

After the press conference, Hussein said he spent about two weeks performing roughly $2,500 in renovations to the car, including extensive paint work and repairs to several dents.

"Other than the paint work, it's a good car," he said.

Craig presented Hussein with a community recognition award for restoring the vehicle at no charge to the department.

"We couldn't do it without the help of Mr. Hussein," Craig said.

Hussein said his Corktown automotive business includes a Detroit police workstation where officers routinely gather. He offered to restore a department vehicle after he routinely saw officers arrive in "distressed vehicles."

"Being a business owner in Corktown, Detroit's oldest neighborhood, is a privilege," he said. "We'll do anything we can to protect it."

Craig said the idea of take-home vehicles stemmed from his time in Washington, D.C.

"I kept seeing this police vehicle out in the neighborhood and it rarely moved," he said.

Craig said he discovered the vehicle belonged to an officer who lived in and patrolled the area.

Years later, Craig decided to convert retired Detroit police vehicles into take-home cars for the new initiative.

"I thought we had these new cars coming in so why not give (the old) cars to officers who live in the city of Detroit."

The initiative launched Thursday will use retired scout cars replaced by upgraded fleet vehicles, Craig said. By the end of the year, he aims to assign as many as 20 Crown Victoria vehicles from 2004 and 2005 to officers that reside in Detroit.

Craig said the cars already were being retired from the fleet because badly peeling paint had started reflecting badly on the department.

"To be candid, the officers don't like to take them out," Craig said. "And I don't blame them."

The department has not yet determined how to fund future restorations, Craig said.

"I've talked a lot about working with our youth community, so I was hoping that maybe there's a school teaching young people to paint vehicles and we could tap into that," he said.

Hussein said he would be open to restoring more police vehicles.

"We're going to do what we can," said Hussein, who has been in business for 15 years. "This is our way of giving back to the community."

Following the press conference, members of the tactical response unit and commercial auto theft section were expected to receive an award for their work in the arrest of a serial rapist suspect and chop shop suspects in two separate operations, police said.

HFournier@detroitnews.com

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@HollyPFournier