Detroit Police Chief James White, left, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Mayor Mike Duggan, right, hold a May 16, 2023, press conference on gun violence interventions. (BridgeDetroit photo by Malachi Barrett)

Mayor Mike Duggan said he’s confident Detroit will experience “significant reductions” in gun violence this summer thanks to state and federal partnerships and new local initiatives. 

Duggan joined Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Chief James White on Tuesday for an update on Operation Safe Neighborhoods, a statewide initiative focused on taking illegal weapons out of the hands of people who can’t own firearms due to a prior criminal conviction. The mayor said cities are rebuilding a criminal justice system that was hobbled during the pandemic. He also highlighted efforts to recruit Detroit police officers and fund community-led violence intervention strategies. 

“We’re identifying people on probation and parole that are at risk for a gun crime,” Duggan said. “(Probation officers) are going into their homes, they’re doing safety checks, they’re making sure people are where they are supposed to be and there’s no guns on the premises. Probation and parole is meaning something again. We’re ultimately going to be tested not by the promises that we make, but by what you see happen this summer.”

The Michigan Department of Corrections partnered with local law enforcement agencies to perform compliance checks on people who are on parole or probation to ensure they are not in possession of guns. Whitmer said 389 illegal firearms were collected from 3,400 compliance checks across the state since September 2022. Officials did not say how many weapons were seized in Detroit. 

“As we enter the summer, when historical trends suggest that gun violence increases, initiatives like Operation Safe Neighborhoods are critical,” Whitmer said. “Nearly one in three violent crimes recorded in the state involve a firearm, and guns are the number one killer of our kids and young people in this country.” 

White said people who have a history of violence and are connected to gangs are prime candidates for compliance checks. 

“When we’re targeting the dismantling, and the disruption of gang activity, it’s those affiliations that can lead to criminal activity down the road,” White said. “We also know through (a federal database) when we look at weapons used in shootings, we draw data and evidence to see how weapons are connected. We’re literally able to map out and see this gun started in this place with this person and ultimately ended up in the wrong hands.” 

Duggan said the people felt like they could carry weapons illegally with no consequences “because the criminal justice system wasn’t working.” Now, the mayor said he’s encouraged by a reduction in court backlogs. 

White said there are many sources of illegal weapons. Sometimes offenders steal legally-purchased guns from others, other times White said youth are getting guns from adults who don’t secure them properly. 

Duggan said Detroit’s police force is growing thanks to a $10,000 pay increase approved last year. There are 200 officer vacancies, Duggan said, a drop from 300 vacancies at the start of the year. 

“By the end of the year, we’re going to be fully staffed because of the $10,000 raises and we’re going to be at full force,” Duggan said. 

Detroit community organizations are in the final stages of receiving approval for a new $10 million grant program to support their work in Detroit’s hardest-hit neighborhoods. The “ShotStoppers” program aims to award organizations with two-year contracts at $700,000 per year to execute interventions to curb shootings.

Duggan said grants will be recommended for City Council approval in June so the organizations selected can start their work by July. 

“Our teams are going to be embedded in very defined neighborhoods, they’re going to be measured on outcomes,” Duggan said. “This is why I’m optimistic this summer. We’ve got the federal government, state government, courts, the city and the most active community groups all on one strategy this summer. We’ll see if we can make a difference.” 

Whitmer also promoted community violence intervention programs that focus on building relationships with high-risk people and prevent conflicts from turning violent. The governor said community-centered interventions are proven to reduce shootings. 

“It plays out in communities, every single day, not just in the mass events that garner the headlines on a campus or in a school system,” Whitmer said. “That’s why I think being strategic and using evidence-based policies that will help keep people safe is really important.” 

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