Detroit Police homicide unit beefed up

George Hunter
The Detroit News
Detroit Chief of Police James Craig

With warm weather waning and detectives poring over old murder cases to look at possible wrongful convictions, Detroit police officials have redeployed officers to the department's Homicide Section to help investigate killings.

Six detectives and one sergeant were added to the Detroit Police Department's Homicide section this week, and a new City Wide Support Squad was formed, Chief James Craig said Wednesday.

"We had upped our deployment at parks, and we also had added manpower downtown to address some concerns there," he said. "But now that we're moving from the warmer months, we're reallocating some of those officers to homicide. This is something we do all the time.

"We had talked about increasing the number of homicide investigators because we added an inactive case unit to work with the Innocence Clinic (to look at old cases for possible wrongful convictions)," Craig said. 

Craig said the move was made at the request of homicide commanders. "They said they wanted to increase their numbers and I honored that," he said.

Detroit homicide detectives have to juggle several cases, so Craig said he set up the City Wide Support Squad — which he referred to as the "overlap unit" — to allow investigators to concentrate on current cases.

"If a unit is working two or three hot cases, and another homicide comes in, we don't want to take them from the case they're working, because it's extremely critical to get ahead of these cases as quickly as possible," he said. "If you're catching one case, then another one, then another one, it takes you off the path.

"City Wide will function as overlap," Craig said. "It will give relief to a squad that might be overwhelmed."

A Washington Post story Tuesday indicated Craig made the change in response to the paper's reporting about 48 police departments in major cities, including Detroit, which had high caseloads and low arrest rates. In Detroit, the homicide arrest rate increased from 37 percent in 2013 to 48 percent last year — close to the national average of 50 percent, the Post reported.

Craig said his staff told Post reporters he'd been planning to add officers for a while, and that the move was not in response to their story.

"I don't know why they went ahead and reported that," Craig said. "I thought with the warm weather changing, now was the perfect time to honor homicide's request for more people."

As of Wednesday, Craig said there had been 197 homicides in Detroit so far this year — down 11 from the same period last year. Last year, Detroit had its lowest number of homicides, 267, in 50 years.
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