Residents show appreciation for northwest Detroit cops

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Cops in northwest Detroit have had a tough couple weeks, investigating dozens of violent crimes, including four children shot since Easter. On Friday, residents feted the officers to thank them for doing a difficult job.

Community organizations and businesses in the city’s 6th and 8th Precincts continued a decades-long tradition by throwing the annual feast in the building where both precincts are housed.

Since April 1, there have been 15 homicides in the two precincts, and dozens of shootings, according to Detroit Police crime data. Nearly 4,000 crimes have been reported since then.

With so many crimes to investigate, police sometimes can get a skewed view of citizens, 6th Precinct Cmdr. Aric Tosqui said.

“The average street cop sees people at their worst, and it’s good for them to fully understand that there are people in the community who support them,” he said.

Volunteer Sherry Williams, who lives in the 8th Precinct, said the steady drumbeat of crime can be demoralizing.

“It’s sad what’s going on with these kids getting killed,” she said. “It’s ridiculous. Horrible isn’t a strong enough word. Innocent babies being killed. It makes no sense.

“So we just want to say thanks to the officers who are out here every day putting their lives on the line. It’s important they know we’re on their side.”

Dozens of volunteers on Friday served food that was donated by local businesses, including Sherwood Food Distributors and Sam’s Club. Hungry cops from several precincts and commands filled the large precinct garage.

The party serves as a morale booster for citizens and cops, said Mary McGhee, president of the Northwest 6 and 8 Community Relations organization, which helped organize the event.

“You hear a lot of people complaining, but instead of that, why not talk to the police and talk to them about your issues? A strong relationship with the police helps. I live over by Joy Road, and we haven’t had a break-in in my neighborhood for years. That’s because everyone is involved, and the citizens and police have a good relationship.”

Police Chief James Craig, who attended Friday’s party, said it’s heartening to be the recipient of citizens’ gratitude.

“This is the community reaching out to us to say ‘we appreciate you.’ That’s very special. I’ve been in law enforcement for 39 years next month, and this is the best of the best.”

Craig also said violent crime has plummeted since he launched an initiative last month in the wake of the fatal shootings of 3-year-old A’Naiya Montgomery, who was killed Easter morning, and two weeks later, 6-month-old Miracle Murray, the victim of retaliation for A’Naiya’s killing, police say.

The effort stepped up police enforcement, community involvement efforts and street advocacy. The initial launch focused on two scout car areas on either side of Grand River from Greenfield to west of Telegraph in the 8th Precinct.

The Detroit 300 Community Action Team anti-violence group is part of the effort, as is the police department’s Crime Reduction Team, churches, police reserves and neighborhood watch programs.

“There’s been no violent crimes in those two scout car areas since we started that program,” Craig said. “The community’s being empowered is a big part of that initiative.”

One of the volunteers for Friday’s feast, Larry Kaplan, director of ACE Michigan, which represents nightclubs in the two precincts, said Detroit’s officers have taken several hits over the years, including in the wallet.

“We can’t give them back the pay cuts and benefit cuts,” he said. “But we can at least tell them we appreciate what they do.”

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN