Detroit forum focuses on 'No. 1 issue': Crime

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
Detroit Police Chief James Craig

As the number of violent crimes falls in Detroit, the city’s top cop and local activists on Thursday cited residents working with law enforcement and community groups as a major force in extending that trend.

“The partnership with you is critical,” police Chief James Craig told a crowd of more than 50 people at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Recreation Center. “We can’t do it without you.”

Craig and others focused on community relations and addressing crime as a part of a forum City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield hosted on the east side.

The gathering was important in addressing “the No. 1 issue plaguing our neighborhoods,” said Sheffield, who was elected in 2013 and represents District 5. “… The type of crime we see on a daily basis is intolerable and should be treated as such by our actions as a city and a community.”

The event came weeks after Craig announced that violent offenses, including homicides, rape, robbery, nonfatal shootings and aggravated assault, declined by 2 percent last year in Michigan’s largest city.

Craig attributed some of the decrease to the city's Project Green Light, which launched in January 2016 with high-quality video surveillance cameras at eight locations and has since grown to include nearly 500. Its cameras are monitored by officers and civilians in the Police Department's Real Time Crime Center.

“Green Light works,” Craig said. “… Green Light locations are safe havens. How do we know? Because we’ve seen a tremendous reduction in robberies in and around (those locations).”

The chief also credited partnerships with community groups and said the department has added neighborhood police officers, the city now has 12 police stations open 24 hours and the department is receiving more tips from the public. 

The chief acknowledged the city's homicide number in 2018, 261, was the lowest on record in more than 50 years, yet "still too many," Craig said.

"We still have plenty of work to do,” he said.

The forum also focused on ties with community groups that offer patrols, safety training and connections to law enforcement.

Ray Winans, who leads D.L.I.V.E, a hospital-based, community-focused violence intervention initiative, believes those bonds can spark more efforts to curb crime.

“Until we start communicating and sharing, we’re going to continue to have these conversations,” he said.

That struck a chord with Norma Vaughn, who leads the Community for Change block club on the city’s east side.

“We need to be more proactive and get more people to work together,” she said. 
“We have to do something.”