Duggan calls for more security cameras at businesses

George Hunter
The Detroit News

On the heels of a weekend that saw 24 shootings and five homicides, city and police officials Monday announced a number of moves they hope will quell the violence.

In helping promote the Green Light Project, Chief James Craig, left, with Mayor Mike Duggan, said it’s crucial for businesses to help police.

Mayor Mike Duggan said in the next 90 days he will consult with police, council members and other experts, and then expects to introduce an ordinance to require all businesses that serve customers after 10 p.m. to install high-definition surveillance cameras with the option to join a program launched in January that allows police in the Real Time Crime Center to monitor businesses’ high-def camera feeds.

In the next two weeks, seven McDonald’s restaurants in the city will join four that are part of Project Green Light, bringing the number of gas stations, restaurants and stores participating to 33, Duggan said at a news conference Monday at a McDonald’s on Grand River on the city’s northwest side.

“The violence in this city is not tolerable,” he said.

The good news, the mayor said: Violent crimes in and around gas stations that are part of the Green Light initiative are down 50 percent.

“Some businesses in the city are willing to tolerate their customers being at risk,” he said. “We’re going to have to change this.”

The City Council passed a surveillance camera ordinance in 2014 that required gas stations to install security cameras inside and outside, although Duggan said Monday he wasn’t sure how aggressively city officials have enforced it.

“Those cameras (required by the ordinance) are low quality,” he said. “I don’t know how vigorous those have been enforced.”

It was unclear what penalties businesses might face if they don’t install high-definition cameras under the new initiative.

Duggan said if the ordinance passes, he will explore funding to help businesses that can’t pay the $4,000-$6,000 required to install the high-def cameras and requisite lighting.

“We’re talking with people about doing a (payment) plan if you can’t write a $4,000-$6,000 check,” he said.

Shelli Weisberg, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, said she has concerns with expanding the Green Light program.

“Our first reaction to it is it’s very Big Brother-ish,” she said. “To force businesses to put in high-definition cameras is basically telling them the police will be spying on their customers. It seems like the flip side of democracy. It can lead to all sorts of problems. Police can use what they see on camera to draw conclusions and search someone without the checks and balances of a judge or magistrate needing a reason to issue a warrant.

“Police make the argument that if we could spy on every corner of the community they’ll keep you safer. That’s not true; you’re much better off strengthening the trust between the public and police, and forcing businesses to have cameras to spy on the entire city undermines the chance of building that trust.”

Jon Campbell, a franchisee who runs the McDonald’s on Grand River where Monday’s news conference was held, said he joined the Green Light initiative for his customers.

“I want to create a safe haven for our customers in the community,” he said. “A lot of us have children, and this will put a lot of people at ease. I’ve been on the Green Light program for 3 months, and loitering is down ... I’ve witnessed drug deals inside and outside. Two years ago, there was a shooting here. Last summer, our registers were torn out by vandals. Now, it’s been quiet.”

Chief James Craig said it’s crucial for businesses to help police.

“You talk about taking back neighborhoods, that means the business community has to be our partners,” he said.

Duggan and Craig touted recent successes of the Green Light program, including the arrest of an armed suspect at a gas station on Seven Mile and Hoover, and Shamicah Burton, the 20-year-old woman who was arrested and charged with assault with intent to murder after a high-definition camera captured her in March allegedly shooting a man in a car.

Also Monday, Duggan announced plans to expand the Operation Ceasefire initiative that’s helped cut violent crime on the city’s east side in half since its 2012 launch in the 5th and 9th Precincts.

“Homicides are down 50 percent, and shootings are down 40 percent in those two precincts,” Duggan said. “The problem is, they’re up everywhere else.”

Craig said violent crime is down 6 percent citywide compared to the same period in 2015. “But we’ve had multiple shootings, and that drives up fear,” he said.

Duggan said he’ll announce next month that Operation Ceasefire will expand into the 6th, 8th and 12th precincts on the city’s west side.

The Detroit Police Real Time Crime Center, in which officers monitor video feeds, will also be expanded, Duggan said.

“It’ll connect to cameras from MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation), downtown, Wayne State, the riverfront,” he said, adding the expansion will cost “several million dollars.