On August 7, when Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. asked the city council for a millage proposal to add more officers on the streets, it was voted down by the council. The millage would ask Detroit resident tax payers to pay more in taxes to increase the number of patrols. The council turned the chief down because of conflicts with state budget negotiations and the added burden on the already high taxes. Whether this might be the way to reduce crime or not, the call is clear to take action on crime. The question becomes, how is it going to happen?
It is not a far reaching exaggeration to say that Detroit has been known for its crime for sometime now. It is also apparent that Detroit has not always had the best relationship with law enforcement from the 1967 riot to the Malice Green case. Today the message from Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr. is that the police force is adequate and needs to be better managed. The adverse opinion to and from the police forces is shared in other locations.
The last time I was in New York City, I saw many cops that got along with people passing by and blended in naturally into the mix of a crowd in Washington Square Park. What stood out even more was the number of police officers present. According to the U.S. Census, New York had much lower crime rate than Detroit in 2009. New York, though, is another city that has a turbulent history with law enforcement. Under Mayor Giuliani in the mid to late '90s the city adapted a zero tolerance "Broken Window" theory of policing the city, as he explains on nypost.com. As shared by the Seattle Times in 1997, there were many disputes with this policy, including vicious police brutality, but crime did go down in this time period.
Of course for all this talk about policing it cannot be left out that the true causes of crime are cloudy at best. It is acknowledged by Vice President Biden in USA Today that crime moves with economic realities. The better the economy, more cops, less crime. The worse the economy, less cops, more crime. Yet why does this really happen? One explanation is that good people do bad things when they feel they have no other option. The other is that there isn't enough of a police presence to keep honest people honest. Still some may doubt the direct relation of crime and economic movement in its entirety. At any point in the conversation it might be better to step back and see crime as a community problem. The truth is most people are not criminals, but most do fear crime and rightly so. Fear is the title given to the shackles that locks opportunity away from prosperity.
More feet on the beat may not mean simply more officers, it may mean more of an attitude. Arresting someone means that one person cannot commit another crime, but freeing people from fear means many will not want to commit crime. When it comes to crime the word prevention operates on two levels. One is how crime will be stopped from happening again and the other is keeping it from happening at all. This may all sound like the same old problem, but the solution might be prioritizing. Keep the issue present and keep people committed. Detroit has made a reputation on building things, so let's start building a future without fear.