Several community intervention groups in Detroit’s hardest-hit neighborhoods will soon share in $10 million worth of grants to support strategies to reduce gun violence and homicides.
A new city program, coined “ShotStopper,” was unveiled Tuesday night during Mayor Mike Duggan’s 10th State of the City address and aims to award multiple city organizations two-year contracts at $700,000 per year to execute interventions to curb shootings. If they succeed, the groups – with long histories of working with individuals engaged in gun violence – will continue to get $700,000 per year toward expanding their efforts, the mayor said.
“The kind of violence that we are seeing, it’s just hard to get your mind around,” Duggan noted Tuesday evening after listing out a handful of senseless shooting incidents.
“Here’s what these things have in common; We don’t care enough about each other. We don’t value each other enough to say ‘we’re not going to take a life for that,’” he said. “The Detroit police are very good at taking the gun out of the shooter’s hand, but they don’t have the ability to take the anger out of the shooters’ hearts.”
The program, Duggan said, was developed in partnership with longstanding grassroots leaders who have dealt for decades with community violence in Detroit, like Teferi Brent, co-founder of the violence intervention group Dignity 4 Detroit and who serves as the men’s minister at Fellowship Chapel.
Brent, 51, told BridgeDetroit that he coined the phrase “ShotStopper,” noting that it was borne out of the contention over the city’s use and funding support of ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection software used in certain high-crime sections of Detroit. The controversial technology was opposed by many activists and residents amid research questioning its effectiveness and concerns that it could be used to criminalize innocent residents.
“My argument was ‘don’t just invest in ShotSpotter, invest in shot stopping,’” said Brent, noting community groups entrenched in violence reduction have worked to address root cause issues that create criminogenic behavior.
“This takes serious work and relationship building,” added Brent, a founding member of the Detroit 300, who has three decades of experience himself and now helps train and support others who often do the same work for free.
As of Monday, Detroit is experiencing more violent crime compared to this point last year. Non-fatal shootings and homicides are up 14%. ShotSpotter had reported 1,617 gunfire incidents this year in portions of the four police precincts where it is being used.
The city anticipates three to five groups will be selected for their own three-to five-square-mile community violence intervention (CVI) “zone” and employ a CVI approach, which might include street outreach, violence interruption like conflict mediation and retaliation prevention as well as connecting individuals in need with economic and social services, and addressing community conditions that contribute to violence. The funding for ShotStopper is part of $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars appropriated toward public safety efforts.
Key drivers of criminal behavior, Brent told BridgeDetroit, are illiteracy, fatherlessness, mental health and substance abuse.
“Then, you have poverty overarching all of that,” he said. “If you’re not addressing the four of those five, preferably all five, you are always going to have this problem. We have to address the whole ecosystem. It took years to create it, it’s going to take years to undo it and create something new.”
After the initial two-year term, the groups will be eligible for “performance grants” if it’s shown that they’ve helped reduce homicides and shootings in their designated zones and beat the citywide trends for serious violent crimes.
Brent said access to funding will enable these groups to dedicate full-time violence interrupters, victim advocates and intervention specialists to hit the streets and organize.
“We need organizations staffed with trained personnel to directly address those variables and dynamics that create a culture and conscience of violence. People who do community violence intervention work should be classified as first responders. If saying that violence is a public health issue – which it is – then why wouldn’t we consider these folks public health providers.”
Alia Harvey Quinn, founder and executive director of the community organization Force Detroit, said the program is a “really positive first step” toward what these groups have long advocated for.
“This is a long tradition that hasn’t been met with public resources or public support,” she said.
But, Harvey Quinn said with the announcement comes some cause for concern. She said the city hasn’t adopted other evidence or hospital-based models employed and perfected nationally in areas like California and New Jersey, which she said could spare Detroit “from going down the same journey of troubleshooting.”
ShotStoppers, she noted, follows a long line of successful, community-focused strategies to curb violence in Detroit and more recent initiatives, like Council President Mary Sheffield’s Occupy the Corner events, Council President Pro Tem Jame Tate’s anti-violence policy work in Brightmoor and Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison’s experience with the Detroit Police Department overseeing Ceasefire, a cornerstone gun violence strategy.
“This is like a beautiful convergence of interests and will and opportunity all coming together around the ARPA dollars,” she said. “My concern is that two years is a really short window of time to implement a model, get it right and drive results for any sector.”
Harvey Quinn said her group began in 2015 and focuses on the city’s Cody Rouge area and plans to be among the applicants for the funding. The organization, she said, has been actively building relationships in the area of Joy Road and Southfield with young people experiencing violence, criminalization and poverty and who are “acting out in ways that are symptomatic of trauma” related to those issues.
Bettison said the program allows the city to support the groups who have urged Detroit to “invest in us.” ShotStopper, he said, is taking into account national programs, but noted in Detroit every community is different.
Bettison said homicides and nonfatal shootings in the past five years have remained highest in several “hot spot” areas. The city, he said, isn’t going to tell the groups applying where to focus their attention. They will pick the geographic “hot spot” areas and their own tactics and ideas.
Unlike Harvey Quinn, Bettison, a former Detroit police officer and member of the police administration, said he is confident that progress will be measurable within two years.
“I truly believe you can do it and it doesn’t take 10 or 20 years to do it,” he said.
The city also has been investing in the police department with a significant pay raise for officers and via equipment, cars and technology, Bettison said.
“This (ShotStoppers) is definitely not anything related to defund the police. It’s a fund the community,” Bettison said. “It’s all hands on deck when it comes to violence in this city.”
Duggan said that ShotStoppers builds on the efforts of Council Member Fred Durhal III and members and partners of the city’s Gun Violence Task Force.
“We’re very community oriented in our city. And when you look at us, you know, we have the largest predominantly African American population in the country,” said Durhal, noting other city programs and advocacy groups working on gun violence reduction initiatives. “We wanted to take a deeper course and say, ‘hey listen, we need to put money toward this. This is what the community is calling for.’”
ShotStopper applications opened Wednesday and are due by April 10. Bettison said it’s expected that the selected groups will roll out their initiatives this summer.
Duggan said the thought is that the longstanding groups best know the unique challenges of each of the city’s communities.
“I don’t know if it’s going to work,” Duggan said, “but we’re going to do this by holding these groups accountable for their own theory.”
To apply, organizations should take the following steps:
- Register for a Unique Entity ID with SAM.gov
- Register as a city supplier at www.detroitmi.gov/supplier
- Submit an application through the city’s system at www.detroitmi.gov/supplier
Malachi Barrett contributed to this report