So much for the latest crime-fighting strategy out of 1300 Beaubien.
With murder and gunplay spiraling out of control, Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee put into effect on Monday his latest plan to attack the city’s crime problem.
Operation Inside Out: Night Angels requires officers assigned to desk jobs to put in eight hours on street patrol each week. Chief Godbee said that would put 40 to 50 extra officers on the streets in crime hotspots throughout the city.
It’s a clever name but do we really expect officers fossilized by a decade on the desk to stop violent crime?
Consider this: On Monday evening, the chief conducted roll call in the parking lot of Citi Trends, a store selling knick-knacks and cheap clothing at the corner of Gratiot and Seven Mile Road. It was the kickoff of Inside Out. The media was not invited but I am told other police brass were assembled, a mobile mini-station and 60 or so cops standing in the lot as a show of force.
“It was supposed to be our Ground Zero,” a cop told me. “We’re taking the streets back starting with that parking lot.”
But the next day at high noon -- broad daylight -- a man entered Citi Trends, stuck a pistol in the face of the manager and robbed the joint. He ran off with an undetermined amount of cash and remains at large. The event was not chronicled on the city’s new police blotter.
The store quickly took matters into its own hands. An armed security guard now patrols the aisles.
“The crime’s just out of hand,” said Candi, the manager robbed at gunpoint. “It’s only going to get worse as long as they know they can get away with it.”
Candi is thinking about moving out of the city.
The last time I heard of anything so absurd was two years ago when then-Police Chief James Barren had been fired. The day he was cleaning out his desk, a burglar was cleaning out his house. Back then, homicides were on track to top 450 per year.
Warren Evans was called in as top cop. He took a no-nonsense approach. He tracked parolees. He convened a special unit -- the Mobile Strike Force -- to roam the streets, stop motorists and search for guns. Homicides dropped 25 percent in a year, a national record. But complaints against police grew. Then seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones died in a police raid, a case that is still pending. Evans was dismissed and Godbee promoted.
Godbee is a good, dedicated cop. He’s taken a community-oriented approach to policing and called off the dogs. The Mobile Strike Force is a memory. The gang squad and narcotics units are a shell of their former selves. There is no vice squad. Complaints against police have dropped but violent crime has surged. In a single week last month, there were 50 shootings, resulting in nine homicides. Homicide is now on track to top levels not seen in at least a decade.
Part of the problem is police strategy. Part of it is an underclass of thuggery that is not invested in society. But part of the problem is money.
Today Godbee has fewer cops and a smaller budget than Evans. He is forced to try stunts like Inside Out. Cuts to the Michigan Department of Corrections has resulted in 40 percent of the parolees and probationers in Detroit having absconded, according to a study by David Martin, a Wayne State University criminologist.
Crime, it cannot be argued, is the number one problem here. If we are really going to save the city, really make Detroit work, keep people like Candi here, we’re going to have to pay for it.
Just look at England. London cut its police force and London is burning. Imagine what things could look like here.