What are the solutions to Detroit’s complex crime problem?
Auto thefts up 6.44%. Burglaries down 12.85%. Homicides up 11%. Rape down 5.82%.
What an inconsistent picture, and regardless of minor progress in some areas the results are still completely unacceptable.
In the Mayor’s conference room downtown, we all heard lots of talk from Mayor Bing about “putting our arms around young black men” in regards to crime. The reality is that a ridiculously high percentage of those violent crimes are committed by young black men. Interim Chief Logan says 15,000 have been killed since he joined the force in 1969, a year after his own brother was murdered. Tragedy struck Logan’s family again when his wife’s nephew was killed last October. Obviously, he personally understands the gravity of the problem we face.
The Mayor is also planning meetings with Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts to work on bringing conflict resolution and other skill sets to the public schools. Good idea, as any solution will be multi-faceted.
There are a lot of domestic reasons why this violence is happening. You can’t station a cop in every house in Detroit. Many of the tragedies came about from very unhealthy situations bred through poverty, lack of education and lack of opportunity.
What are the strategies that could work to turn the tide? Can something be done?
Let’s look at what some areas of the city have found successful.
In Midtown, they’ve completely bucked the trend of auto thefts in the rest of Detroit by knocking them down 53%. That’s huge. How? The South End reports Wayne State University Police Department (WSUPD) was able to figure out that 70% of the stolen cars were Chryslers. They were then able to pay special attention to those being driven in the area and watch for people loitering around those kinds of cars.
Across the board, WSUPD is using technology to increase its reach as well as data to drive its decisions. The department meets every two weeks with other community stakeholders to review the data and adjust its tactics accordingly. What if this was done at every precinct in Detroit?
The successes aren’t limited to Midtown. In Grandmont Rosedale, a Detroit Police Department pilot program was very successful and reduced home invasions by 32%. That pilot program involved something as simple as officers being involved and talking to their community. They were able to build some trust and figure out correlations that led to crimes being solved or stopped by focusing on suspicious behavior, not suspicious people.
Groups like Hugs Not Bullets are taking a peer-to-peer approach. Originally founded to reduce celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve, the organization now focuses on teaching conflict resolution and many other skills so many of our youth today simply don’t have. We need to be investing in those.
Our elected officials and their representatives tell us we need to come together. It’s true. A complex formula of factors are the responsible for this epidemic. But there are some solutions out there that work to make at least some progress.
The question is, are our organizations are willing to change and implement them? Imagine if we could reduce auto thefts in this city by 50%. More than 8,000 thefts, which cause real financial harm to Detroiters, wouldn’t be committed. One would bet our insurance rates would come down.
Yes, the naysayers will give every reason why this isn’t possible.
There are management issues.
There are union issues.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter, because progress needs to be made to move forward at this critical juncture in our city’s history. Real leadership means the ability to cut through that. We have multiple Detroits on top of and next to each other, and fortunately, it seems for the most part there’s a growing consensus that we’re all in this together. The suburbs pay dearly, too, in the end for the cultural breakdown in parts of the city through increased incarceration costs and countless other hidden expenses.
The culture of “can’t” needs to be the next victim in this city. The lives of our citizens, and the future of this nascent turnaround, depend on it.