Detroit police partner with gas stations to fight crime
City leaders on Monday unveiled a partnership that’s engaging neighborhood gas stations to help deter and solve crimes.
“Project Green Light Detroit” rolled out in January at eight 24-hour gas stations in some of the city’s most challenged areas.
Under the program, participating businesses have invested $5,000 to $6,000 each to equip their stations with high-definition interior and exterior video cameras, enhanced lighting systems, a highly visible green light and signs. The partnership links the live video feed from each of the stores to the Detroit Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center.
The Green Light program is one of the center’s most promising initiatives, Detroit Assistant Police Chief James White said.
“I haven’t seen anyone doing what we are doing,” he said.
The project allows Detroit police to better monitor public areas and direct their resources. The high-definition cameras can capture clear pictures of individuals, clothing, vehicles and license plates that will be relayed to area units, police say.
White says some city gas stations have become a hub for illegal activity. In the first half of 2015, about 25 percent of violent crimes in Detroit occurred within 500 feet of gas stations, officials said.
“There is rhyme and reason for why we started with gas stations,” said Richard Tao, a senior adviser to the mayor. “We’re really looking to go into the neighborhoods, go into the tough areas and help out.”
Last week, the video feed from one station near Seven Mile and Hoover picked up a potential narcotics transaction. It allowed police to capture license plate information and other data that’s since been distributed to an area precinct.
Moussa Bazzi owns two east side gas stations involved in the pilot. The stores, a BP on Outer Drive and Mobil on Jefferson, are getting a good response, he says.
“I feel better. The employees feel better. The customers ... they are feeling a lot safer,” Bazzi told The Detroit News. “Once the word gets around, it’ll be worth the investment.”
The pilot phase will run through February, giving the administration, police department, businesses and community groups time to fine-tune the effort.
The goal, officials say, is to expand the project in March for some of the city’s other 300-plus gas stations. It also could be opened up to other businesses, including restaurants and convenience stores.
“Overall, this is about community confidence and safety for the community,” White said. “This isn’t just plugging in a camera to the police department and saying ‘we’re a safer environment.’ It’s about the relationships and giving the community an opportunity to shop safely, get gas safely and feel confident that they are able to go back and forth, like everyone else does in their community.”
Mayor Mike Duggan in a Monday statement noted the program gives police instant access to information that might otherwise take hours to gather.
“We are going to form every partnership and use every tool we can to drive down crime in our neighborhoods,” he said.
The City Council in 2014 approved an ordinance that required gas stations to install security cameras inside and outside, but Project Green Light goes a step further by calling for high-definition cameras that give police real-time access to the gas station systems.
The department began working on its plan to set up a real-time crime unit after Detroit Police Chief James Craig took office about two years ago, White said.
Lansing, Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Houston, Atlanta and Memphis are among cities with real-time crime centers.
Police say they hope the visibility of the project and its goals will put the community at ease.
“This is one more piece in the city’s efforts to reduce crime,” Craig said in a Monday statement.
Bazzi said Detroit is on the rise and Green Light sends a message: “Detroit is not for you to come in and do your crime. We’re going to fight back.”
To become a partner in the program, go to www.detroitmi.gov.