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One Detroit neighborhood is fighting back on crime … and winning

So you want to fix a neighborhood, huh? You want to cut down on blight and crime? Well, it can be done and the Grandmont/Rosedale neighborhood on Detroit’s Northwest side can tell you how in two words. Community involvement.

This historic, diverse, well-populated, middle-class neighborhood with streets lined with stately brick houses and tall old trees, has a history of working together and with others. So when it was faced with a rash of home invasions it welcomed the opportunity to be the pilot for a Detroit Police Department project to see if community involvement could, really, make a difference.

It did. That, and the creation of a trusting, bond between the Grandmont/Rosedale neighborhood, its residents and police officers that is aimed at preventing not reacting to crimes.

The program ran from May through August and after those 120 days there were 32% fewer home invasions in the area compared to the same time last year. Police made eight felony arrests, including four for home invasion and a misdemeanor arrest.

It’s a program called “Broken Windows” developed by the Manhattan Institute of Public Policy that relies on citizens getting more involved.

Here’s how it worked.

Police officers were encouraged to interact more with residents, driving by in the patrol car and saying “hi!” or chatting with people out walking or doing yard work. Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee says officers documented 650 positive contacts with residents.

“It worked because there are deep roots in this community and (the project) focuses on suspicious behavior instead of suspicious people,” said Inspector Vicki Yost. “It was (police) personnel and revenue neutral and about opening up dialog so citizens feel they can reach out to us.”

The greater engagement was very evident the meeting when the results were shared with the neighborhood at a packed house at the North Rosedale Community Center. Residents encouraged each other to join neighborhood patrols and shared insights on suspicious behavior. For example, does the rash of car tire lefts have any correlation with the opening of several used tired stores nearby?

There’s more to the preventative side.

Detroit police officers and Department of Corrections officers also made 250 visits to the homes of people on probation and parole to seek out those they consider to be potential home invaders before they could commit crimes. It worked. Of the individuals selected for home visits, those who were the worst offenders and whom DPD offered a helping hand through the Greater Detroit Centers for Working Families, none committed a crime in the pilot project area in the 120-day period.

This pilot now will become part of everyday policing in the Grandmont/Rosedale neighborhood, Yost said. In addition, Godbee hopes to extend the program throughout Detroit. “This is the beginning of what we want to see policing be in the city of Detroit, across the entire expanse of the city,” he told the Grandmont/Rosedale neighborhood audience.

If Grandmont/Rosedale is any example, it can certainly make a difference.

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