Our editorial: Keep Project Green Light voluntary

The Detroit News

Crime in Detroit has been decreasing overall. Recently released statistics show there was a 6.7 percent decline in violent crime in 2016 compared to 2015, and a 9.4 percent decrease since 2014. Carjackings, robberies, non-fatal shootings all decreased, which is very good news for the Detroit Police Department and the city.

Still, slight increases in homicides, rape and auto theft mean city leaders and police must continue to pursue smart crime deterrence strategies.

In his recent State of the City address, Mayor Mike Duggan mentioned expanding Project Green Light, the voluntary program for businesses to put green lights on their buildings with real-time camera monitoring hooked up directly to the police department’s Crime Center downtown.

Since January 2016, about 230 businesses in Detroit have installed cameras and participated. Duggan said the city expects 400 businesses will be in the program by the end of the year.

Because of its initial success — the first several businesses to join saw 50 percent drops in incidents of violent crime — Duggan wants to mandate that late-night businesses in Detroit pay to install the monitoring services and green light.

Duggan has indicated the City Council has the votes to push such a measure through, but since there’s currently a backlog of businesses waiting for installation, such a mandate doesn’t make sense.

Although the first eight businesses that signed onto the program saw 50 percent reductions in crime, data show that from 2016 to 2017, the additional businesses that joined saw an 11 percent reduction. That’s significant, but much less than the reduction experienced during the pilot program.

The concern is that the more locations that join the program, the less effective the response time is going to be, as monitoring and deployment resources are spread thinner.

Additionally, the memorandum of understanding for Green Light operations says DPD doesn’t necessarily have to be actively monitoring participating businesses. So while a call placed from a Green Light location will be deemed Priority 1, there’s no guarantee businesses will be watched at all times.

Businesses that would fall under the mandate — about 4,000 altogether — might also consider closing after dark instead of putting up the $1,000 to $6,000 to get the program installed, plus additional monthly costs.

Mandating that all businesses participate will require considerable funding. Duggan has proposed upping the police department budget, with part of the added money going to Green Light.

Before expanding Green Light to the extent Duggan proposes, tests should be run to determine whether cameras that aren’t constantly monitored are more effective as a crime deterrent than putting more officers on the street.

The City Council should be confident that the success of the Green Light project is scalable to the extent Duggan proposes before placing a costly mandate on 4,000 businesses.