Detroit fireworks patrol volunteers ready to help

George Hunter, Christine Ferretti and Candice Williams
The Detroit News

DetroitLongtime neighborhood patrol leader Muhsin Muhammad knows the effectiveness of volunteering: He’s witnessed crimes and provided information to police to help investigations.

Now he plans to put his experience to use this weekend as the Detroit Police Department calls for volunteers to help with the upcoming fireworks and River Days.

“While people may not feel this is important, while the kids may not think the curfew is important, it is important to be there and report,” said Muhammad, who lives in the Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood on the west side.

Police launched the effort to mimic the success of Angels’ Night neighborhood patrols for nearly 20 years. It comes amid concerns about safety at the events and the City Council’s rejection of a four-day curfew.

“We can only get it done because of you,” Police Chief James Craig told more than 50 volunteers during a briefing Wednesday evening at police headquarters on Third Street. “...We know as a tool it’s a very effective tool.”

Police say several organizations have committed to helping patrol, including Detroit 300, Live In Peace, Marcus Garvey Movement, Citizens Police Academy Alumni and New Era, Police Chaplain Corps, Police Reserves and Citizen Radio patrol. DTE, Strategic Staffing Solutions and the Downtown Detroit Partnership are also providing support.

Pastor Maurice L. Hardwick, founder of the Living in Peace movement, said he expects 50 to 100 of his group’s members to volunteer.

“We talk about the city not being safe,” Hardwick said. “What are we doing to make sure it’s safe?

“We want the city to have a great night and have a peaceful city event without violence.”

Detroit Police Commissioner Reggie Crawford first expressed the idea to enlist Angels’ Night volunteers. Wednesday, during a segment on WCHB — NewsTalk 1200, council President Brenda Jones urged the public to help.

“Please come out,” she said. “All of the angels have come out and are helping patrol the city. We need those same angels to come out, to show out in Detroit. To show that Detroit is going to be a safe city for fireworks, River Days and whatever days is down on the riverfront.”

Earlier this week, Craig met with the Detroit NAACP, the Skillman Foundation and the Detroit Downtown Partnership to figure out ways to keep the two events safe for the 1 million people expected to attend.

“We want everyone who visits the riverfront this weekend and for the fireworks Monday night to enjoy the celebrations with their families and friends,” Craig said in a written statement.

After several hours of emotionally charged statements from citizens and civil rights advocates, the City Council on Tuesday voted 4-3 to reject a plan by Craig to impose a four-day curfew that would have required anyone 17 or younger visiting downtown from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday through Monday to be accompanied by an adult.

The proposal riled civil liberties advocates, raised racial concerns and frustrated some council members who argued it came too late and coincides with the National Baptist Convention at Cobo Center that’s expected to draw thousands.

Last year’s River Days event was marred by sporadic brawls among youths, although the fireworks were relatively peaceful. In the past, however, there have been a number of high-profile violent incidents at the fireworks, including beatings and shootings.

After Tuesday’s vote, Craig expressed confidence the fireworks and River Days would still be safe.

Instead of the four-day curfew, the restrictions apply only to Monday’s fireworks, in which minors must be accompanied by an adult in limited areas downtown between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. The hours are less restrictive than last year, when the curfew began at 6 p.m. and expired at 6 a.m. Those who break curfew will be taken to Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School, police said.

The boundaries for the curfew include the Detroit River to the south, Interstate 75 to the north, Chene to the east and the Lodge Freeway to the west.

Anyone interested in volunteering can , call (313) 550-9817.

(313) 222-2134