Editorial: Detroiters rally to keep festivals safe

The Detroit News

Detroiters proved an important point over the past four days: They can pull together to take care of their city and their children. Compared to previous years, the four days of the River Days festival, which culminated Monday night with the Ford Fireworks, were nearly incident free.

Last year, more than 150 youths were detained for curfew violations on fireworks night alone. Monday night, only four juveniles were detained, and only one arrest was made. For River Days, not a single young person was picked up for curfew or other violations.

Credit that success to excellent police work by Chief James Craig and his officers. But also to the volunteers who turned out to help keep things going smoothly.

Craig on Monday thanked several volunteer groups, including the police chaplains, the reserves and citizens band radio patrols who pitched in to help with crowd control and add eyes and ears to the riverfront. Volunteers also were recruited from the various community groups, including Detroit 300, Live In Peace, Marcus Garvey Movement, Citizens Police Academy Alumni and New Era.

It was the first time the Volunteer Angels were deployed for the summertime festivals, and it worked well. The chief also noted the efforts of the Downtown Detroit Partnership and its members, most notably Strategic Staffing Solutions and DTE Energy, which provided resources for the volunteer effort.

Detroit parents should also be commended for either keeping their children safe at home or accompanying them to the events, making the mass detentions of the past unnecessary.

The weekend on the river could easily have gone badly, as it did elsewhere in the city. A wave of violence resulted in 24 shootings over the weekend. Three people died. Among the victims was a 2-year-old.

Craig expressed frustration with a lack of community support for law enforcement efforts. Witnesses were scarce after the mass shooting of 10 people at a block party, even though there were scores of people in the area.

The cooperative spirit that helped keep the festivals safe must spread throughout the city.

Citizens must take greater responsibility for keeping their neighborhoods safe. It's understandable that witnesses are fearful of retaliation if they speak up; it's happened too often in the city. But the streets are never going to be safe unless Detroiters take them back.

The enhanced effort along the riverfront was volunteer driven. That same approach can be taken to getting recreational centers open to keep kids occupied during the summer months, and to begin other initiatives aimed at defusing the violence.

There aren't the resources at City Hall to do everything that needs to be done in Detroit. That's particularly true of law enforcement.

Detroiters have shown what they can do when called upon. The best opportunity Detroit has for avoiding a summer of violence is to mobilize its citizens and businesses to take care of their own neighborhoods.