Dawn Ison
U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison joined Monday with Wayne County and Detroit officials to announce a new targeted gun violence reduction initiative. (Department of Justice photo)

The Department of Justice and Wayne County’s prosecutor are joining Detroit in a targeted law enforcement initiative to reduce gun violence in city high-crime neighborhoods.

U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison, Mayor Mike Duggan, Police Chief James White and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy unveiled plans Monday for the strategy deployed in the city’s 8th and 9th police precincts, which have led the city in fatal and nonfatal shootings, robberies and aggravated assaults. 

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“This strategy is designed to significantly reduce violence by narrowly focusing on those who are committing it and to give these neighborhoods back to the majority of the residents who want to live in peace,” Ison said in a Monday statement. 

The effort is part of the U.S. Attorney’s Project Safe Neighborhoods, the centerpiece of the DOJ’s violent crime reduction initiatives. Through the program, law enforcement partners and stakeholders work to identify violent crime problems and solutions to address them.

The “hot spot” strategy, which began on Memorial Day and will last through Labor Day in September, includes enhanced federal, state and local law enforcement collaboration and coordinated prosecution efforts. Felons in possession of a firearm and arrested in the designated areas will be immediately prosecuted federally, the DOJ said.

The announcement comes amid concerns of a summer spike in shootings and after Duggan last week centered his annual keynote on the statewide stage at the Mackinac Policy Conference on Detroit’s violent crime problems.

Officials noted Monday that the project will be paired with city-led efforts to address blight and other quality of life issues for residents living in the designated enforcement areas. 

“The two areas Detroit Police have been intensely focused on are the 8th and 9th Precincts, where we typically see the highest rate of gun-related crimes, especially during the summer months,” said Duggan, adding he’s “deeply appreciative” of the U.S. Attorney’s policy of having felons found in possession of a gun in the violent precincts face immediate federal prosecution.

“The new initiative,” Duggan said, “makes it clear they will remain strong community partners in making neighborhoods safer for Detroit residents.”

The mayor’s administration also has been pushing for a $7 million expansion of the controversial gun detection technology ShotSpotter in the 8th and 9th police precincts. The software is among the crime-fighting strategies in the city to spark privacy concerns. The plan to use federal COVID rescue dollars toward funding the extension of ShotSpotter over 28 square miles has also received pushback from some Detroit City Council members who feel there’s not enough data to support its continued use. 

Despite some reductions, gun violence continues to be a big problem for Detroit. In 2021, there were 309 homicides and 1,065 nonfatal shootings compared to 323 homicides and 1,170 nonfatal shootings in 2020, according to statistics from the Detroit Police Department.

The city’s 9th precinct had 50 homicides in 2020 – the most for any precinct in Detroit. In 2021, there were 42 homicides, a drop but still the highest among Detroit’s precincts. The 8th precinct had 43 homicides in 2020 and it recorded 21 last year, police figures show. 

Both precincts had 184 nonfatal shootings in 2020. In 2021, the 8th precinct had 143 nonfatal shootings. The 9th, with 186, saw a slight uptick.

“The proliferation of gun violence in Detroit is staggering. We must not be deterred from attacking this problem,” Worthy said. “People with previous records in the 8th and 9th Precinct will be prosecuted federally if they are in possession of weapons.”

Also joining in Monday’s announcement were FBI Special Agent In Charge James A. Tarasca of the Detroit Division and Special Agent in Charge Paul Vanderplow of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

“Regardless of the time of year, ATF has no tolerance for criminals who continue to terrorize our communities’ by utilizing firearms as a tool of violence,” Vanderplow said.

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