Detroit is putting more police downtown and encouraging parents to keep track of their children after an outbreak of six shootings over the weekend that left one person dead.
Mayor Mike Duggan and Police Chief James White held a news conference Monday to discuss plans to increase police staffing to summer levels and other strategies to prevent gun violence. Both stressed that children can’t be allowed to roam downtown at night and warned parents will be ticketed if they ignore a 10 p.m. city curfew for children 15 and under and curfew of 11 p.m. for minors between 16 and 17.
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“We have to face the reality that, for whatever reason, Greektown has become an area where two groups beefing with each other show up to settle the beef or people go looking to start things,” Duggan said. “I don’t know why you do it in an area where you’re 100% certain to be arrested, but that’s what’s happening. We cannot let our children into these areas unaccompanied.”
Five of the shootings unfolded in Greektown and the other happened on the Detroit Riverwalk south of downtown on Saturday, Duggan said. Security guard Daryll Straughter was killed, the mayor said, by a 33-year-old man who allegedly walked up and shot Straughter in the chest without warning.
White said Detroit police already had a strong presence in Greektown, but that didn’t seem to deter people from using firearms in the crowded area. Suspects in all of the shootings were apprehended thanks to combined efforts of police and witnesses, he said. Several officers, White said, were posted in close proximity to where Straughter was shot and killed Saturday.
“I’ve seen video (footage) where the officers are feet away,” White said. “The boldness, I think, has more to do with bad decision-making, guns in the wrong hands and a lot of other things we’re not going to solve at this press conference. At the end of the day, we will refine our deployment and be more engaged with undercover officers in those groups that are giving us heads up on what’s happening.”
To help curb the violence, police are increasing manpower on the street. White declined to share specific deployment numbers but said there will be an emphasis on crowd management and enforcing city laws related to open intoxication and disorderly conduct. White said more undercover officers will be deployed to move through crowds, and police helicopters will watch for ATVs and other vehicles that aren’t legally allowed on city streets.
Duggan said more “intense” conversations are happening with downtown businesses to develop a strategy for parking and other changes to make the area safer. Melanie Markowicz, executive director of the Greektown Neighborhood Partnership, could not be immediately reached Monday for comment.
The city is also reviewing applications for a new program supporting community violence intervention strategies. Duggan said 25 Detroit organizations are vying for the federal grant funding, which will help target neighborhoods with high levels of gun violence. Up to five groups will receive funding over the next two years.
White said he sees the $10 million “Shot Stoppers” program as an important part of his department’s strategy to reduce crime. Organizers who spoke with BridgeDetroit last week said community violence intervention is more effective at preventing shootings than shows of police force.
Summer deployment levels are around 25% higher than spring deployment, White said.
Sunshine and warmer weather brought more people outside over the weekend following months of dreary cold, and Duggan said he saw families with strollers enjoying downtown amenities. Duggan described the “emotional roller coaster” he felt watching unaccompanied children hours later go into areas where there had been violence that night. Detroit’s police chief said parents shouldn’t drop off groups of unsupervised children in the downtown area.
“This is the community that we are trying to protect,” Duggan said. “Downtown is going to be for everyone. Everyone is going to be welcomed but everyone is going to be safe.”
None of the shootings involved minors, but Duggan said he’s concerned about families being caught in the violence.
White said the suspected shooter who was arrested for allegedly killing Straugther was apparently angered after being cut in front of in line to enter a store in Greektown. Duggan said Straughter was well-known for his gentleness and kindness. Friends and colleagues called Straughter a selfless person with a big heart in tributes posted to social media.
White said police are on the hunt for people who are illegally carrying weapons downtown.
“You don’t want to bring your gun downtown,” White said.