Detroit mayoral candidate Anthony Adams explains his crime intervention plan

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mayoral candidate Anthony Adams on Friday touted a crime reduction strategy that would bolster community intervention to stem violence and hopelessness.

Adams provided an overview of his crime plan before an audience of about a dozen residents and supporters in the parking lot of a gas station on the city's east side.

"We're dealing with issues of hopelessness in our community," Adams said. "Until we begin to understand that we cannot deal with crime without addressing underlying issues of poverty, we will continuously be in a cycle of high crime rates, high poverty and high hopelessness."

Detroit mayoral candidate Anthony Adams talks about plans to address crime during a news conference Friday, March 12, 2021.

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Adams, from the PB station at the corner of Interstate 75 and Seven Mile, said freeways in Detroit are "dangerous" and the city needs a broad-based strategy rather than silos to address crime. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan's administration, he said, "doesn't have a clue."

"We can no longer accept the nonchalant, benign neglect of crime in the City of Detroit," said Adams, an attorney and former deputy mayor under Kwame Kilpatrick's administration who declared his intentions in January to challenge Duggan in this year's race.

Adams said, if elected, he would hire more than 100 community intervention specialists trained in conflict resolution, gang intervention and building relationships with youth. He noted that the proposed program could be facilitated through partnerships with multiple organizations that have millions in private donations and federal grant funding to provide the services. 

Separately, he noted more resources need to be directed toward job training and mental health resources for police officers. Adams also called for federal intervention in getting illegal guns out of the community. 

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said Friday that Adams "brought up nothing that we're not already doing."

Craig said the department has long been doing intervention work. There's a new initiative to aid officers in responding to people who have a mental illness or are in crisis. 

"He's not come up with any new ideas or anything in his statement that would substantially have an impact on crime reduction," Craig said. "There's nothing substantive in what he said."

Craig pointed to programs to aid ex-offenders and city youth as well as Operation Ceasefire, an initiative to stem gang violence that connects those likely to commit crimes with mentors and social services. It's been in place for years, he said, and it's working. 

The department is also hoping to get a $1 million increase in funding this year to expand a mental health effort. Duggan, in his budget presentation to Detroit's council this month, proposed the allocation to expand a collaboration with the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network to aid police officers when they are responding to residents who have mental illnesses. It's a program Craig said Adams "obviously has no knowledge of."

"The fact is, we've been doing it and we've been doing it very effectively," he said. 

Duggan has made removing barriers the focus of a third term. He's touted the "People Plan," aimed at building on his efforts to help Detroiters obtain high school diplomas, skilled trades training and door-to-door support programs. 

Duggan in June also rolled out the Detroit Community Health Corps to send community health care workers and peer counselors door-to-door to help impoverished residents with housing, jobs and staying current on utility and water bills.

Crime was up in Detroit in 2020 and Duggan and Craig both have attributed the increase in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Criminal homicides in the city were up 19% in 2020 over the prior year. The city recorded 327 homicides in 2020 and 274 in 2019, according to Detroit police statistics.

Nonfatal shootings in Detroit rose even more dramatically last year, with 1,173 shootings, up 53% from 2019.

Michigan State Police 1st Lt. Mike Shaw told The News on Friday that there have been six freeway shootings this year. "Five were part of other criminal activity that started off the freeway," Shaw said. "One was a road rage."

Duggan, during his state of the city speech on Tuesday, touted a proposal to prioritize and address Wayne County's backlog of gun crime cases. Duggan said shutdowns induced by the COVID-19 crisis have backed up courts.

"The criminal justice system in this country has been shut down for a year and we are feeling the implications of it in the gunfire you are hearing in your neighborhood and the stories you are seeing on TV," Duggan said during his Tuesday speech. "When your courts are shut down, your prosecutors are shut down, your probation is shut down, we have folks who think there's no consequences."

Wayne County has a backlog of 2,200 gun cases, but Duggan said efforts will ramp up later this month to prioritize the cases and get them heard before judges. 

Adams said Duggan didn't tackle the issue of crime until late in his speech Tuesday. And in regard to the pending gun cases and Duggan's plan to expedite the cases, Adams said it doesn't go far enough.

"That's only part of the strategy," he said. Beyond that, he added, the city has to provide diversion services to young people caught with weapons.

East side resident Sandy Arnold turned up Friday to hear Adams' plan. Arnold said he doesn't feel safe in the city and isn't satisfied with the Duggan administration's Project Green Light initiative. The effort features high-definition cameras on businesses and churches that feed into the Police Department's Real Time Crime Center. 

"The Green Light program doesn't stop the crime. It justs lets them see who is doing the crime," he said. "I've been a victim of promises. We need more intervention."

Adams is the first high-profile contender to declare his candidacy. There are nearly 20 others who have picked up petitions for the mayor's race including 2017 primary candidates Myya Jones, Curtis Christopher Greene, Donna Pitts, Danetta Simpson and Articia Bomer.

George Hunter contributed.