There is no relief from the orgy of violence that has plagued Detroit for several decades. The city reported 411 homicides in 2012, including those termed justifiable homicides…the highest criminal murder rate since 2007 when there were 392. Nonfatal shootings, obviously intended to kill, totaled 1,263.
Worse than the numbing body count were the words of city officials who suggested that the senseless slaughter of the innocent is beyond the ability of law enforcement to control or contain.
“The problem lies not only with the police department; it lies with the press, it lies with the principal and it lies with the preacher and it lies with the parent,” said Interim Police Chief Chester Logan. He also questioned whether adding more cops would make a difference.
“I think the message that we want our citizens to understand is we need them,” said Mayor Dave Bing. “I just don’t believe that our police department should have the total responsibility for safety in the city.”
Both statements contained kernels of truth. The long-term solution for breaking the cycle of violence does fall largely outside of law enforcement. But in the face of so many deaths, the words seem callous and uncaring. In effect, they are a tacit admission that city government is handcuffed. Crime is too pervasive. Cops are incapable of protecting citizens. They must fend for themselves.
For too long, residents have been fed this “helplessness” indoctrination replete with excuses. Which led me to wonder whether a woman at the helm of the city would be more sensitive to distressed families and wayward children, and yet tough enough to enact effective reforms.
Perhaps, I thought, hope, and those illuminating qualities might be found in former State Rep. Lisa Howze, the only female, so far, to announce her candidacy for mayor. She didn’t disappoint.
“There is nothing more critical to the city of Detroit than the safety and protection of our people,” Howze told me. “Because violence imposes so much fear, real pain and suffering, I would not hesitate as mayor to devote the necessary resources into making neighborhoods where children live and play safe havens.
“Not only will safe streets will be my highest personal objective – it will be my highest budget priority. I would spare no expense in making sure that the carnage of 2012 will be a bloody memory that never repeats itself.”
Howze appears to understand that containing violence is imperative to the city’s recovery and to its future. She further agreed with my contention that increasing police ranks — not reducing the number of cops — is the best defense against ruthless predators. That’s what happened in New York City under Mayor Rudolph Guiliani in the 1990s.
Durng that period, NYC had a reputation as one of the worst crime-ridden cities in America. Guiliani took the position that allowing disorderly elements to proliferate conveyed the message that the city was uncaring; that citizens were fair game. He hired 7,000 cops and instituted a precinct-based management system which deployed officers where crime was occurring during critical hours.
Public safety, not costs, powered the crackdown. Today, NYC is one of the safest cities per capita.
“In a perfect world,” Howze continued, “the best anti-violence insurance policy would be to have children born to loving, responsible parents to steer them through the difficulties of adolescence and provide them with a moral compass.”
But, she says, making apologies and “blaming the victims” serves no useful purpose. Posturing prevents no deaths. The city’s reprehensible failure to protect its citizens will not change.
“With more cops and innovative changes in policing,” concludes Howze, “we can stare down the deadly face of crime and move the genocidal violence debate from untenable statistics to a degree of safety we can all live with.”
Mayaor Bing doesn’t have a plan. Lisa Howze does. Do any of the other potential candidates?