In front of hundreds of residents at the ARISE Detroit! Neighborhoods Rising Summit, Detroit Police Chief James Craig pledged that he was holding his department and his personal staff accountable to the residents of Detroit.
Still, one had to wonder if anything was really going happen when Russ Bellant, president of the Helco Block Club, emotionally asked the chief why police weren’t following up on trying to arrest a suspected rapist in his northeast Detroit neighborhood in the E. Seven Mile/Van Dyke area. The suspect rapist was well known in the community and had been identified by the woman in an initial meeting with police, Bellant said, but for some reason there had been no follow through from the department and the perpetrator was still walking the streets.
“The women in our neighborhood are afraid,” Bellant told Craig, who was a keynote speaker at the summit. “We need something done.”
The chief did not flinch, speaking from the podium, telling Bellant to give details to his chief of staff who was at the event.
“I got a phone call from the police on Monday, Nov. 4, two days after the Nov. 2 summit,” Bellant said. “By Thursday, (Nov. 7) the woman had picked the suspect out of a police lineup and the man had been arrested.”
That is an example of the kind of community/police cooperation that we need to cope with the lawbreakers who do not respect property or people as they prey on the general community, the vast majority of whom are hardworking law-abiding residents.
In response to the recent rash of violent incidents in the city of Detroit, Chief Craig will host “A Summit on Violent Crime and Homicide in Detroit ” on Tuesday, Nov. 19, from 6 pm – 8 pm at the Sacred Heart Church Community Center located at 3475 Rivard near Mack and I-75 in Detroit. The purpose of the meeting is to implement a united approach to fight violence in Detroit. The chief wants community leaders and residents to become involved in the decision-making process to eliminate violent crime and develop ongoing crime-fighting community partnership.
Fighting crime was a major focus of the summit, including a public safety workshop and a call to the community from Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney for Michigan’s Eastern District, to continue to work with law enforcement officials to quell the violence and shootings that have shattered too many neighborhoods. She detailed the efforts the Detroit One initiative, a collaborative between community organizations and law enforcement that was announced earlier this year.
Asked at the summit, the one thing that she would urge for residents to do to fight crime, she responded, “Get involved in a neighborhood association and block club. Be our megaphone. Without a buy-in from the community, law enforcement cannot be successful.”
The more than 400 people who attended the summit were able to partake of ideas and strategies to improve neighborhoods at 12 workshops, focused on developing businesses, urban farming, community art, youth leadership, youth employment, environment, neighborhood makeovers, fighting blight and more. The takeaway idea for the event was to give people ideas and inspiration to go back to their neighborhoods to make them stronger and move Detroit forward.
That made perfect sense to Linda Smith, executive director of U-SNAP-BAC, an east side housing development agency, who was a panelist on the Fight Blight workshop.
“This was a great way to get information to the people,” said Smith, who was recently named to a federal task force to accelerate the work on blight removal in Detroit. “Sometimes you can’t wait around for permission to do things. You just have to do them. ARISE Detroit! is really teaching residents how to get things done in their neighborhoods, even when they are not members of a block club or a community organization. The old model of doing things, just having people call the city for help, doesn’t work anymore.”
Anne Byrne, president of the Springdale Woodmere Block Club in southwest Detroit, found residents who are not part of organized block clubs but who came to the summit looking for direction to change their neighborhoods.
“I saw a new crop of people looking to get involved,” said Byrne, who was a panelist on the Neighborhood Organizing workshop. “They were a very receptive group, looking for resources. It was very encouraging to see people get excited. That means there is potential for communication and activism.
Byrne contends that heeding the wishes of neighborhood residents must be a priority as new resources come into the city – whether from the government or the foundation community.
“Politics come and go and developers come and go,” she observed, “but the people are always here.”
For more information go to www.arisedetroit.org.
- Luther Keith is executive director for ARISE Detroit!