Detroit police change block party monitoring policy

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — With shootings continuing to mar outdoor parties in the city, including two incidents involving multiple victims last weekend, Detroit police have changed its deployment policy to better monitor large gatherings before trouble starts.

Under the new policy, police will pull cars from other precincts, if necessary, to supervise large parties. The change was made after officers were unable to check on an Aug. 9 gathering of about 500 people that ended with a quadruple shooting near Wayburn and Haverhill on the city’s east side.

About three hours before the 1:50 a.m. shooting, someone dialed 911 to alert police the crowd was getting rowdy — but there were no squad cars available to make the run, 9th Precinct Capt. Rodney Cox said.

“According to dispatch, no cars were available because of the large number of other shootings that night,” Cox said during a meeting of police officials Thursday.

Hours later on Aug. 9, about a mile north, four others were shot about 10 p.m. during a large gathering in the 15200 block of Hazelridge. The two incidents are not thought to be related.

Although Cox said three of the victims of the Hazelridge shooting were gang members, he said the incident wasn’t thought to be gang-related, but over a girl.

As was the case with other recent block party shootings, no witnesses came forward.

“Five hundred people, and nobody saw a thing,” Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt said, shaking his head.

The two incidents follow other violence at large gatherings this summer:

■Three people were shot July 26 at a Detroit park filled with up to 300 people at a barbecue at Maheras-Gentry Park, near Avondale and Navahoe on the city's east side.

■Also July 26, a weekend-long block party ended with a 19-year-old man dead and two people injured during an armed robbery attempt as the party wrapped up around 3 a.m. at Erwin and Woodlawn.

■Five people were shot at June 26 at a gathering at a car wash at Gratiot and Whithorn. That followed a quadruple shooting at about 11 p.m. Saturday during a party near an apartment complex at Conner and Shoemaker.

■On June 20, 11 were shot at a block party on a basketball court at Webb and Dexter. A 19-year-old was killed.

“Do block parties need to be banned? It’s totally ridiculous that people can’t attend a party without worrying about getting killed,” said LaTanya McCurry, whose niece, Sakendra Mitchell was killed at a block party at Puritan and LaSalle Aug. 2, 2013.

“She had just had her high school prom, and had got accepted into college when she was killed,” McCurry said. “It has really tore my family apart.”

No witnesses came forward, and the killing has not been solved, McCurry said.

“I know somebody saw something,” she said, adding that there’s a $2,500 reward from Crime Stoppers of Michigan for information leading to an arrest.

With the fewest number of police officers patrolling the city since the 1920s, whenever there are multiple crime scenes, staffing is depleted, leaving no officers in a precinct to check on large parties, officials said.

For instance, on Aug. 9, when there were no cars available, “we had a quadruple shooting, a triple shooting, and a double shooting in (the 9th Precinct),” Deputy Chief Charles Fitzgerald said. “It was just one of those nights.”

Cmdr. Charles Mahone said the department changed its policy to ensure police monitor large gatherings, even if there are no cars available in that precinct.

“I don’t want to give out too many deployment details, but the change is, when there’s a large party, we will find the manpower to monitor them,” Mahone said. “Everyone has the right to assemble, but when they start doing nonsense, that’s when we’ll start enforcement.”

Small gatherings can balloon quickly, Mahone said.

“With social media, they can do a Twitter blast to all their friends that they’re going to gather at a particular spot, and next thing you know you’ve got 300 people there,” Mahone said.

“There’s a big difference between people blocking traffic, or burning rubber (during drag races), as opposed to someone at the typical family reunion. We’re not worried about people who are peacefully gathering. But not everybody does that, unfortunately.”

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