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Benny Napoleon Headshot

We Must Affirm Detroit as a Safe City

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If Quicken Loans began to lose tens of thousands of customers per year, chances are they wouldn't wait 50 years until they lost more than half of their customers before they committed to a different business model.

Well, in Detroit, we have lost more than half of our population over 50 years because of crime, and the conditions of our neighborhoods. And while we have been laser-focused on reviving our downtown we, as a city, have never focused on the issues causing the flight.

It hasn't been because of our downtown.

Here's the litmus test: think about everything positive that is said about Detroit today. Then think about the negatives. Most can distinguish between the two tales.

Neighborhood revitalization is the key to Detroit's transformation. Our city will never truly be transformed until we can affirm it as a safe city.

Last year in Detroit, there were 411 homicides. This year there has been close to 215 murders through August. The number of homicides and unsolved cases is horrible. We also must look at the more than 1,000 shootings last year to see the total picture because the difference between a murder and a non-fatal shooting is the person's aim.

Just last month alone in Detroit, there were 170 shootings, mostly on the west side of the city. Thirty of those were fatal shootings.

As Detroit Chief of Police (1995-2001), I targeted violent crime and criminals using data. I led a reorganization that deployed resources more effectively, and we were able to reduce crime by 34 percent. And, we did this with a balanced budget every year.

When I headed the gang squad unit, we restructured its focus and resources to virtually eradicate gang activity in Detroit in the 1980s. We shut down the BK's and Errol Flynn gangs.

When the crack cocaine epidemic was on the rise, sending crime further out of control, I reinforced the DPD narcotics unit and took out notorious drug gangs like the Young Boys Inc. and the Chambers Brothers.

As Chief, I embarked on a strategic effort to reduce carjackings as they became widespread. And as shootings of our young people began to rise, I partnered with Detroit Public Schools to implement and enforce truancy and curfews to keep our young people safe. During my last two years as chief, there were no murders of youth under the age of 17.

As much as I would like to tout these successes solely as visionary leadership on my part, I cannot. Along with the work of the dedicated men and women in blue, it was the support from the Coleman Young and Dennis Archer administrations that made public safety the top priority at that time.

Now we have a new, passionate and experienced Detroit police chief in James Craig. The day he was hired there were 14 shootings. And just a few weekends ago, after Craig declared that Detroit would be a safe city, there were 20 shootings. The truth is that Craig will never be successful in Detroit until he has a Mayor who understands that public safety is a priority and places the resources in his hands to do the job.

I know how to reduce crime. As mayor, I will reduce violent crime in Detroit by 50 percent with my 5-point crime reduction plan, which calls for:

  • A data-driven approach to crime fighting - which utilizes data to track crime patterns in order to both resolve and deter incidents. A practice that has been used successfully in Midtown Detroit.
  • Crime prevention - a technique that teaches residents how to reduce the likelihoods of becoming victims to crime.
  • Directed enforcement - uses a personnel and resource deployment policy to assign officers based on problem areas in order to increase enforcement of laws, further deterring crime.
  • Problem-oriented policing - that looks at the city and neighborhoods' challenges and implements strategies to address each specific crime-related issue.
  • Community policing.

My community policing strategy is called the ONE SQUARE MILE INITIAITVE, which also creates immediate city response to quality of life issues in our neighborhood. The One Square Mile Initiative places a police officer in each square mile of our city. In every square mile:

  • Every citizen, every business, every church, every school administrator and teacher, everyone will know the police officer assigned to their square mile.
  • The One Square Mile officer will be accountable for crime, blight, code violations, and community support in your one square mile.
  • The One Square Mile officer will know what houses are vacant. What drug houses exist. What code violations take place. They will know the crime patterns. They will know the land owners.
  • The One Square Mile officer will be supported by a network of city government resources from the Detroit Police Department, Detroit Fire Department, Buildings Safety & Engineering, and Planning & Development that will provide tactical support to help reduce crime in our square miles and citywide.
  • Each officer will work with residents, businesses, schools and clergy to identify problem areas, including drug houses and a pattern of burglaries, to proactively reduce the incidents.
  • Residents and other community members will have the One Square Mile officer's cell phone number, instead of overburdening the 911 system which should be reserved for real emergencies.
  • And, if the officer goes on vacation, they will work with their colleague, the One Square Mile officer in the next mile, to help cover their mile.
Only five percent of the police force will be utilized to implement the One Square Mile Initiative. The other more than 2,000 Detroit police officers will be assigned to patrols, tactical units and support functions utilizing the five-point plan in order to reduce crime in our city by 50 percent. Over the next few weeks, I will unveil my plan to transform every Detroit neighborhood, one square mile at a time. It will begin with the rollout of my 50 percent crime reduction plan that is part of my comprehensive Neighborhood Growth Strategy that finally focuses on neighborhoods.