Detroit mayor, police chief map crackdown on noise, fights, drag races

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city's mayor and interim police chief Thursday unveiled a five-point plan that aims to address the raucous "party atmosphere" in neighborhoods and parks that often leads to fights or gunplay, while cracking down on drag racing and drifting.

During a press conference at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, Mayor Mike Duggan and interim chief James White laid out the plan, which they said was drafted in response to complaints by residents. They were joined by members of community groups that vowed to help with the effort.

Interim Police Chief James White, left, speaks as Mayor Mike Duggan listens, during a press conference at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, Thursday, June 10, 2021.

White said he will deploy extra officers on overtime to carry out the plan's five components: Increasing police presence; strict enforcement of noise code violations; cracking down on parking lot owners who allow tailgating parties; curbing drag racing and drifting; and community engagement.

The city curfew that prohibits kids age 17 and under from being outside alone after 10 p.m. on weekdays, and 11 p.m. on weekends will also be enforced, White said.

"We get it — we’ve all been shuttered in place, and because we’re coming out of COVID, we’re re-emerging," White said. "We understand. But we have to do so responsibly.

"We cannot have this party atmosphere breaking out in front of homes, in neighborhoods, neighborhood parks at 2, 3, 4 o’clock in the morning; wild music, fights, people bringing guns to what should be peaceful events," White said.

Duggan added: "As the state has opened back up after COVID, there's a perception that you can come into the city, and that laws won't be enforced ... we don’t have time for a learning curve or a transition period. We’ve got to have leadership that can act.”

The mayor said he authorized White to pay 4,000 hours of overtime per week for officers to work crowd management details, and an additional 2,000 weekly overtime hours to tackle drag racing and drifting.

Mayor Mike Duggan speaks during a press conference at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, Thursday, June 10, 2021.

"This allows us full staffing for 911 calls and investigations," White said. "I want to be clear on that … this will not compromise any police services to our neighborhoods. This is in addition to that.

"The department will deploy additional personnel where crowds require staffing, such as Greektown, Riverfront, Atwater, Riverside, Rouge Park, Balduck Park and Henderson park," White said.

Duggan said the overtime shifts will amount to an additional 250 officers patrolling the city.

"I told Chief White and his team, 'I want a plan quickly where everyone is welcome, but everyone should be comfortable," Duggan said. "The number of complaints they're getting about people blasting music in our parks; they're speeding. We need to deal with this."

Police officials will tweak the plan weekly, and the extra patrols will move to different parts of the city, depending on trends, White said.

"We will move this detail as needed," he said. "This is not something that we’re going to stick to; we’ll see the trends. If it clears up in one area, and starts to develop in another area, we’ll move this detail.

"I've been interim chief for nine days, and I think I've been working on this for eight of those days," White said. "... I'm interim chief, but these aren't interim problems."

White said police will "strictly enforce" the city's noise ordinance that makes it "unlawful to maintain or operate an outdoor speaker that is affixed to any structure or placed upon any property where ... the speaker is audible for a distance of more than fifty (50) feet from the source."

Police also will enforce the section of the city's noise ordinance that prohibits playing music in a vehicle that can be heard from beyond 10 feet.

"We're going to ask you once to turn it down, and then we're going to ticket you," White said.

Noise code violations are misdemeanors and carry a fine of up to $500 and a maximum of 90 days in jail, or both. A first conviction carries at least a $100 fine, a second at least a $200 fine and any convictions after that a $300 fine and up to 90 days in jail.

Business owners who don't cooperate with the noise restrictions will have their licenses revoked, White said.

"If we get to your business, and you don't want to cooperate, and you want to keep that party atmosphere going, you want to keep that loud music going so you can have people loitering in front of your business, we're going to ask you once, then we're going to take your business license," he said.

White said police also will ticket parents whose kids violate the city curfew. The curfew violation ticket is $50, while a parental responsibility citation is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to $500.

"Young people need to be supervised," White said. "We'll be enforcing parental responsibility laws. We don't want to do heavy enforcement on children, but parents need to know where their children are."

During Thursday's briefing, Assistant Police Chief David LeValley laid out the plan to tackle drag racing and "drifting."

"We've had a detail that we've been working throughout the summer so far, and we're going to continue that detail," he said. "This detail involves several components, including the utilization of our air support unit; the Michigan State Police air support unit; undercover surveillance vehicles, intelligence gathering.

"If you come to Detroit and you drag race or you drift, and this also includes utilization of ATVs, off-road vehicles on city streets that are illegal, we will likely come to your house and take your vehicle and prosecute you," LeValley said.

The assistant chief showed a video that was posted by Kalamazoo residents, in which they announced they planned to come to Detroit and illegally drag race two Lamborghinis. The next part of the video shows one of the cars racing at night — before it's hooked up to a city tow truck and confiscated. 

Interim Police Chief James White speaks about vehicles seized recently while drag racing in the city, during a press conference at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, Thursday, June 10, 2021.

Police have initiated forfeiture proceedings for the two Lamborghinis, which were among the seized vehicles that were displayed outside police headquarters Thursday.

Community activist Keith Bennett, a member of the group Force Detroit-Faith In Action, said he wants to help police increase residents' quality of life.

"We know that it will take a partnership, a unique and vigorous partnership with the community in order to get a safer Detroit without imprisoning people," he said. "We're galvanizing the city to take back our streets."

Alia Harvey Quinn, left, and Keith Bennett, both of Force Detroit, speak during a press conference at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, Thursday, June 10, 2021.

Beginning Friday, Bennett said groups in four communities plan "peace walks" from dusk until 11:55 p.m. One group will start at Livernois and McNichols; another will commence its walk at Seven Mile and Gratiot; a group will gather at Rouge Park; and another will start downtown.

"This is a heavy lift," Bennett said. "We're asking people to march for several hours. But we need to say we're tired of this. It may not go how we want it to go, but we're not going to quit."

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN