DPD’s new precinct a place police can call home

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — Sixty-seven police officers will work out of the Detroit Police Department's new 7th Precinct that officially opened Monday on the east side.

While police officials touted an expected reduction in response times in the area, Police Chief James Craig said it was as important to offer east-siders a police precinct they can call home.

Before the 7th Precinct, area residents had to use the 11th District on Nevada just west of Mound Road on the northeast side.

Detroit City Councilwoman Mary Sheffield, whose district includes the precinct, said she fought "tooth and nail" during the council's budget process to secure the space at the former John Norvell Elementary School at 3501 Chene.

Craig said Sheffield displayed a similar tenacity in making sure the police department would have the facility open to the public in a timely manner.

Capt. Kyra Joy Hope called Monday "a very blessed day" at the precinct, noting that east siders all the way down to the Detroit River "now have a building they can call home."

Craig said the precinct was both a return to the past and a departure from the department's recent history.

In 2005, Craig recalled, Detroit moved from precincts to districts, which community members say encompassed a much larger geographic area.

"That didn't work out very well, did it?" Craig said.

At one point the city even tried "virtual precincts," a tactic Craig says may be appropriate "in San Bernardino or Beverly Hills," but not so much in Detroit.

"That didn't work out so well, either," Craig said.

"You cannot have engagement without a precinct in your backyard," the chief said.

Craig says violent crime is down 48 percent on the east side, prior to the opening of the 7th Precinct. He attributed the drop to strong police community relations that make residents of the area comfortable sharing information with authorities.

Hope told The Detroit News about her efforts to build those relationships with residents and business owners. As Hope and other officers became known to the people they serve, information began flowing in, sometimes while crimes were taking place.

Cmdr. Arnold Williams will head up the precinct and will be introduced to the community at a meet-and-greet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Sacred Heart Church, 1000 Eliot St.

jdickson@detroitnews.com