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Duggan vows crime crackdown to lift Detroit's image

Public safety was high on Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan's list Tuesday as he delivered his sixth State of the City address

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan proposed an infusion of $10 million for public safety and boosting the ranks of police officers in the city as Detroit seeks to reshape its reputation as one of the nation's most violent.

Public safety was high on Duggan's list Tuesday as he delivered his sixth State of the City address. He laid out plans to add 70 officers next year to Detroit's force. He also unveiled a plan to enhance the reach of the city's high-tech, crime-fighting camera system designed to capture video of perpetrators, Project Green Light, telling residents "we are going to chase them down."

“We have to do more to keep our community safe," he said."We hit rock bottom six years ago with the highest homicide rate in America," Duggan told an invitation-only crowd at East English Village Preparatory Academy on the city's east side.

"We've made progress. We are not celebrating what we've done, but we're going to build on it."

The second-term mayor is expected to deliver a budget proposal to Detroit's City Council on Thursday with the planned public safety investment as the centerpiece. 

Duggan touted plans to build on Project Green Light, which has enrolled 500 businesses that pay a fee for high-definition interior and exterior video cameras and lighting. Surveillance cameras feed video to Detroit Police Department's Real Time Crime Center.

The mayor pointed to a "terrifying" ordeal last month for a mother who was carjacked near Interstate 94 and was able to get her 1-year-old son from the car before the carjacker drove off. 

"He drove off on the 94 service drive. No cameras. We don't have any," Duggan said. "These holes in the system are preventing us from being effective."

 A pilot program on Warren, Greenfield and East Seven Mile will allow traffic cameras to hook up to the Green Light system, he said. By the end of 2020, the city will have a network of 1,000 high-definition cameras to track perpetrators. 

"We're going to make people make different decisions on what they want to do," he said.

The criminal homicide tally in Detroit dropped for the second consecutive year with 261 deaths in 2018. 

The homicide total last year, compared to Detroit's most recent estimated population of about 673,000 as of July, is a rate of about 39 per 100,000 residents, which is among the highest in the United States. 

Councilwoman Janeé Ayers said as the city rebuilds public safety is critical.

“When we start to talk about how do we rebuild a city, and now that we’ve got the people wanting to come in, how do we keep it safe?” she said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Ayers said she’s interested in hiring more police officers but wants to ensure the city takes care of the ones who have stuck with the department.

Duggan's speech touched early on the city's progress in attracting businesses after decades of decline. Duggan touted his administration's success in luring automakers, boosting workforce training efforts and giving ex-offenders a second chance, announcing a bid to hire two attorneys to aid ex-felons.

In the lively and applause-filled address, the mayor said the city is committed to providing opportunities for Detroiters.

He said he wants residents to find success working and living in the city, adding he wanted to add $4.5 million in workforce training efforts.

Duggan noted property values were up for the first time in 17 years as the City Assessor’s Office reported in January that the average increase in residential value citywide was 12 percent.

The mayor also pointed out the city's unemployment rate has been cut significantly in the last 10 years. It was near 28.4 percent in June 2009 and steadily declined to 5 percent last July.

“We have to talk about how we change the city," Duggan said. "We want to be a city that’s committed to making job opportunities for everyone. We are going to have to reverse 70 years of city history. Detroit was the city that taught the world how to make cars and … handled the migration."

The speech follows the announcement Monday of a new effort to boost skilled trades training in Detroit. Duggan and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights unveiled plans to break ground next year on a $30 million facility near Oakman Boulevard that will provide free skilled-trades training for up to 1,500 students per year while they earn wages and benefits. 

Councilman Gabe Leland said while jobs are “key to all revitalization,” public safety will be the council's main focus going into the new budget cycle. 

“You better believe that our focus is going to be on public safety because what folks want in their city are safe streets, good schools and job opportunities,” Leland said.

To improve safety, Detroit also has looked to Operation Ceasefire, a program in which police partnered with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Wayne County prosecutors to identify gang members and others who are likely to commit crimes or be victims.

“Whether it comes to supporting the Green Light Program and Ceasefire, we have to get into our schools and create more opportunities for mentorship in this town,” Leland said.

From public safety and safer neighborhoods to providing facelifts to commercial strips, Duggan offered an outline for what could come, and a look at his administration's work over the past year.

Duggan talked about his long-running battle to reform the state's no-fault auto insurance law. He has said the system is "morally indefensible" and urged state lawmakers to make a change in the law that's produced some of the highest auto insurance rates in the nation.

"I feel like for five years I've been beating my head against the wall and now it feels like the wall is finally going to give," Duggan said. 

Council President Brenda Jones said she was impressed by the reach of the speech but said she's focused on balancing the city's budget.

"The name of the game is to make sure we don’t have a deficit," Jones said.

Jones said safety remains a major concern, adding that the city's listing among the top three cities in the U.S. for crime is  "not a proud moment."

The mayor touted the city's massive blight elimination program and the city's efforts to monitor progress and contractors, saying that in the last five years, four demolition contractors have been terminated from the program for failing to follow protocols.

“We made them go back and fix their mistakes," he said. "We did not let a single one slide.”

About 17,000 demolitions have been done in Detroit since 2014, of which about 11,000 were funded under a federal program. More than 16,000 houses have been boarded up in the last two years.

"By the end of 2019, we promised to have all vacant homes demolished, boarded or occupied, and we are on track to do that by the end of the year,” he said. 

Last week, the mayor teamed with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to announce that Detroit is slated to get its first new automotive assembly plant in nearly three decades. 

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV plans to revive an idled engine plant on the east side, part of a $4.5 billion investment in five Michigan plants. The move would create about 6,500 jobs in the region. 

City officials have 60 days to acquire 200 acres of land and secure City Council approval for the project. The city also must finalize tax incentives and craft a benefits plan with input from residents of the impacted community. 

The mayor also said the city's Detroit Promise program, which offers free two-and four-year degrees to city high school graduates, will be expanding to cover skilled trades certificates at community colleges starting this fall.