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Fed, county and local partnership revives violent crime initiative in Detroit

Law enforcement efforts will focus on the most dangerous offenders, crime data and high-crime neighborhoods

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Detroit Police Department

By Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

DETROIT — Federal, county and city law enforcement officials and community leaders announced Wednesday they are reviving an initiative to combat violent crime in Detroit.

The United States Attorney’s Office built the partnership they’re calling “One Detroit,” designed to reduce violent crime through prevention efforts, services for the re-entry of former inmates and linking law enforcement with community stakeholders. It’s not a new strategy but rather builds off of an effort called “Detroit One” that was launched a decade ago. The difference is added partnerships, citywide peace events and heightened enforcement in hot spots.

The One Detroit partnership will aggressively investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for the most violence. But, the partners said that violence must be prevented, not just punished, and formerly incarcerated individuals are an asset because their perspective could provide insight to address violence.

“One Detroit seeks to disrupt violence in our neighborhoods by focusing law enforcement resources on the drivers of violent crime, supporting community-based solutions to prevent crime, and ensuring that individuals returning from prison have sufficient support to take full advantage of their second chances,” said U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison during the Wednesday announcement. “We need a more mindful approach to violence reduction that acknowledges that law enforcement cannot be the only solution to keeping our communities safe.”

Ison was joined at her offices in downtown Detroit by Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney Kym Worthy, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit Police Chief James E. White, Kenyatta Stephens, CEO of Black Family Development, Alvin Stokes, president of the Detroit Citywide Police Community Relations Council, and Bishop Edgar Vann of Second Ebenezer Church.

The partnership comes after a violent weekend in Detroit that left two dead and several injured. A Greektown security guard was fatally shot in one incident outside a liquor store. Two people were charged in connection with his death Tuesday.

“We have more individuals carrying illegal weapons, more for young people in this country than we’ve ever seen,” Duggan said. “The most sustainable way to reduce violent crime is to get the people committing it to change their own behavior.”

Ison said her office has already seen significant results in some smaller cities like Pontiac, Jackson, Saginaw and Flint. In those areas, nonfatal shootings have decreased by more than 50%, Ison said.

“At its core, One Detroit is about a partnership between the community, law enforcement and government working together, sharing information and aligning our efforts. We will reduce violence in this city,” Ison said. “We won’t stop trying to stop (the violence). This is about giving the community the opportunity to make choices.”

Ison introduced the leadership team of the One Detroit partnership that will customize strategies for school intervention and planning and said there are different pillars. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will lead the enforcement of the partnership, the City of Detroit is leading prevention and intervention efforts, and Michigan Department of Corrections Assistant Deputy Director Beverly Smith will lead re-entry efforts.

The prevention effort, led by the city and community leaders like Bishop Vann of Second Ebenezer Church, aims to reduce crime through blight elimination, community engagement and job training.

“The frequency of these brutal incidents is staggering and the toll that they take upon our city is immeasurable,” Vann said. “We cannot and will not accept violence as a norm in our city. We are sending a strong message and creating a movement that targets and reaches kids and adults. We have to understand that the mindset has to change in our city. Think before you act.”

City Councilwoman At-Large Mary Waters is working on an initiative for gun-free zones in some of the city’s most popular spaces like the Riverwalk and Hart Plaza; however, Ison said, that is not part of their strategy.

“We are governed by state law, which only permits gun-free zones in defined spaces like churches, schools and a number of others. The city does not have the right to create a gun-free zone that is contrary to state law,” Duggan said. “However, there is nothing that says we have to let illegal weapons into any particular area. I think you’ll see the city deploying more metal detectors.”

Last summer, the city has spent $1.4 million in bond money to buy 10 mobile weapon detectors. However, leaders hope partners at faith-based and nonprofits will help determine the underlying causes of violent crime in the community.

“Enough is enough folks. When I grew up, we had a saying that it takes a village to raise a child, when I’m here to tell you it still takes a village to raise a child,” said Stokes of neighborhood partner Citywide Citizens Police Community Relations. “We are all responsible for what happens here in the City of Detroit.”

Returning citizens will have employment, job training and support to reintegrate into society. The Attorney’s Office will host a re-entry symposium on April 26 at Wayne State University with opening remarks from Detroit Pistons Assistant Coach Jerome Allen about his second chance.

Lastly, enforcement strategies will be aimed at the most dangerous offenders rather than the entire community. Officers will utilize technology like the National Integrated Ballistics Identification Network and evidence-based tools like Gunstate to identify those perpetrating violence. Further details on how this would be conducted were not disclosed.

Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice Professor Christopher Melde will be tracking crime statistics and the impact on the affected neighborhoods to independently measure the success of the initiative.

It isn’t the first time the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the city of Detroit have formed a partnership to combat crime. Last June, federal and city law enforcement officials announced a summer crackdown on gun crimes. The initiative focused on high-crime areas in the east and northwest sides of Detroit, where the city saw the highest numbers of fatal and non-fatal shootings, robberies and aggravated assaults with a gun in 2022.

And in March, Duggan outlined a $10 million anti-crime initiative for Detroit in his State of the City address.

The number of violent crimes in Detroit dropped 16.5% in late 2022 compared with the same time a year prior, while property crimes rose 22%, according to a recent Federal Bureau of Investigation report.

The effort builds off of ShotStoppers, a community violence intervention program introduced by Duggan last month. ShotStoppers received $10 million in pandemic relief funds to award community groups that are successful in reducing crime.

Under the initiative, the city will contract with agencies that will be assigned zones in high-crime neighborhoods, with the goal of reducing homicides and nonfatal shootings in those areas. Agencies that reach the benchmarks will be awarded more money to put back into those programs, while those that don’t meet the goals will lose funding. The mayor’s office is evaluating 25 applications and hopes to award groups in June. The measurement period for a handful of groups starts in August.

ShotSpotter, a separate aerial gun-fire detection tool, is also now rolled out citywide, Chief White said.

Prosecutor Worthy said the county’s child abuse cases are on the rise. Prosecutors in her office are carrying 50 cases apiece, as abuse cases are increasing across the state’s largest county, not just in Detroit, she said.

“One crucial aspect is that we’ve been involved in the last eight years with Child Safety Access. We’ve lost 54 children since 2016 to being killed or seriously injured because the lawful gun owner in the home did not safely store the weapon,” Worthy said. “I’m happy to see the governor just signed an aspect of that bill but unfortunately that bill doesn’t go into effect until 2025 and I’m afraid we’re going to lose more but at least we do have some teeth. This has been a long hard battle just to get people to safely store their guns and take accountability.”

White said the partnership could not come at a better time.

“We know that crime has a lot of different factors that go into it, but we’re seeing an uptick right now in impulsive decision-making, irresponsible gun ownership and people finding their way to illegal weapons in our community and making those horrible decisions quickly that are following them for the rest of their lives,” White said.

Ison expects to roll out a pledge and website in the coming weeks. The office will issue a report on the effectiveness on a yearly basis.

“We want people to stop using guns. Period,” Ison said.

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