Dorcas Word is tired of gun violence in her east side neighborhood and said she just wants the shootings to stop.
“I’ve had enough with all this shooting and all these guns,” said Word, a longtime Detroiter and five-year resident of the city’s Regent Park Neighborhood. “All this stuff is just senseless.”
Word’s neighborhood is the first targeted in Detroit Police Department’s “Operation Saniyah, a three-day effort that got underway Tuesday in an attempt to get more known violent offenders off the city’s streets.
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Detroit Police Chief James White said since taking over the department last June he’s focused on reducing the fatal and nonfatal shootings in Detroit. The operation, named after 11-year-old Saniyah Pugh, who was shot and killed earlier this month inside her grandmother’s house on Goulburn Avenue, is focused on rooting out violent criminals.
“We’re going to look for those people who are known to carry weapons,” White said during a Tuesday news briefing, “those people who have warrants out for their arrest and felonies, those people who have violated their tether, their parole and probation.”
Al Truhan, another Regent Park resident, told BridgeDetroit he hears gunshots regularly and it changes how he interacts with his neighborhood.
“I don’t walk around here as much, if at all,” Truhan said. “If I need to go somewhere, even if it’s only a few blocks away, I always drive. I mean I guess that doesn’t make me completely safe, but it’s better than walking.”
Truhan has lived in the area for over 40 years and said it became really violent until about 20 years ago. He said he wishes DPD invested more in neighborhood policing the way they did when he moved into his house.
“I miss when cops would just walk up and down the streets and we could see and interact with them in the neighborhood,” he said.
White gave his remarks Tuesday in the city’s 9th precinct surrounded by several department officials and dozens of officers dressed in tactical gear. He said he hopes residents will see these officers and feel safer.
The 9th precinct, one of the most violent in the city according to White, has had 18 homicides and 57 non-fatal shootings in 2022, as of June 7. Citywide the department has seen some progress. Detroit is down 12% in homicides and down 21% in non-fatal shootings, but White said one shooting is too many.
White said the gun violence problem goes far beyond Detroit city limits, noting that the country has seen a wave of mass shootings this year.
“It’s a national epidemic, and we’re getting our fair share of it as well here in Detroit, but we’re gonna do something about it,” he said.
White kicked off the program about a week after the Department of Justice and Wayne County’s prosecutor announced they would be joining Detroit in a separate targeted program to reduce gun violence in high-crime neighborhoods.
That law enforcement initiative, in the city’s 8th and 9th police precincts, is part of the U.S. Attorney’s Project Safe Neighborhoods. The program will be paired with city-led efforts to address blight and other quality of life issues for residents living in the designated enforcement areas.
White said Tuesday that Detroit police need to take a “layered approach” to fighting it and Detroit police need help from the community, the clergy and the courts. He noted some accused in shootings have been granted very low bonds and are out of jail on tethers.
“…so we will make the arrest, but we’re one piece,” he said. “Now we have to have a court step up and hold folks accountable and keep them incarcerated, that’s part of the process as well.”
White also has touted the department’s plan to expand the controversial ShotSpotter gunshot detection system to cover more parts of the city. ShotSpotter already runs in sections of the 9th precinct and some of the 8th precinct on the city’s far west side, but the department hopes to expand it to cover 28 miles of the city.
The plan to use $7 million in federal COVID rescue dollars toward the extension of ShotSpotter has received pushback from some Detroit City Council members who feel there’s not enough data to support its continued use. The contract, and a separate $1.5 million contract to extend ShotSpotter’s existing agreement, are on hold as the police further engage with the community.