Detroit crackdown on gun violence, street gangs slashes youth homicide

Detroit crackdown on gun violence, street gangs slashes youth homicide

Detroit law enforcement authorities attribute a sharp and crafted crackdown on guns with a record decline in homicides.

Since Detroit and Wayne County signed onto the federal Project Safe Neighborhoods a year ago, homicides have plunged 32 percent and the overall crime rate 8 percent.

“In the middle of a recession-not during the boom years of the ’90s-with no more police, we are seeing the largest homicide drop in (Detroit) history,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan.

Jeffrey G. Collins, U.S. attorney for eastern Michigan, said more than 1,200 criminals have been convicted of gun crimes and removed from the streets over the past year.

Prosecutors have more than doubled the number of shooting incidents in which charges are brought compared to the period before the crackdown. The Detroit Police Department and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department also created a joint fugitive squad that has made more than 500 arrests in the past year.

Prosecutors work directly with police at the precinct level including participation in crime scene investigations and the immediate filing of subpoena orders with the court to force witnesses to talk to police.

Detroit’s attack on gun crimes has reversed an upward spiral for the city and put Detroit on a path exactly opposite of other large cities such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington where the crime rate has moved up after many years of declines.

The U.S. attorney said the combined forces of federal and local police have shown the criminal element that gun violence will not be tolerated in Detroit.

Police Chief Jerry Oliver and Wayne County Prosecutor Duggan have cooperated in an effort in which police aggressively pursue gun incidents and Duggan follows with quick prosecutions.

“The Detroit police officers on the streets have been really magnificent in responding to the challenges and programs we have asked them to do,” Oliver said.

“We have been very specific in targeting those areas in the city that are the engines for crime. At the same time, we have gone after the nuisance crimes such as prostitution and street drugs that create an environment for other crimes.”

Oliver had similar results with Project Exile in Richmond, Va., where he was chief before coming to Detroit.

Since putting Project Safe Neighborhoods into effect, Detroit reported a 20 percent decline in shooting incidents.

“Do you want to know why the murder rate in Detroit has been what it’s been?” asked Duggan.

“When 1,400 people can shoot somebody, and not get charged, and brag to their friends, you can imagine.”

Another component of the program is the continuing dialogue officials hold with members of the community and with new parolees. Collins and Duggan routinely warn felons about enforcement policy.

Copyright Washington Crime News Service May 30, 2003

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