Federal, county and city partners announced Wednesday a broadened effort to “disrupt cycles of violence” in Detroit.
The partnership, dubbed One Detroit, aims to reduce crime and improve the quality of life for residents in the Eastern District of Michigan, chiefly the state’s largest city, said U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison.
One Detroit aims to stem violent behavior by reaching beyond enforcement to encompass more groups and strategies for community-based prevention and intervention and reentry services for formerly incarcerated individuals.
“The drivers of violence, that’s the focus of this enforcement,” Ison said during a Wednesday news conference. “It’s not about just arresting anyone, but arresting our most violent offenders, our most violent groups, in our most violent places.”
The yearslong partnership, formerly referred to as Detroit One, is about “focused enforcement” with new voices at the table. One Detroit’s executive team includes federal agencies, the Wayne County prosecutor’s office, Detroit leaders and law enforcement, advocacy groups and Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice, among others.
Ison said One Detroit works to identify the groups driving up violent crime in neighborhoods, investment in community violence intervention and prevention programs, like Project LEAD, a 20-week education course for fifth-grade students about the criminal justice system. And, with partners at the Michigan Department of Corrections, more prisoner reentry services to lower barriers to finding jobs and housing, healthcare and education, Ison said.
“We will stop the violence in this community and we won’t stop trying to stop it,” she said. “But if you make a different choice, we will also give you an opportunity to have a chance, to take advantage of a second chance or state a new chance and change the course of your life.”
The announcement comes on the heels of a particularly violent weekend in Detroit’s downtown, with six shootings – five in Greektown and another near the Detroit Riverwalk – resulting in one fatality.
Earlier this week, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Police Chief James White said the city would be ramping up its police presence and enforcement of the city’s youth curfew.
Duggan noted Wednesday that there’s a rise in violence and illegal weapons across the country and said the partnership is key since an emphasis on prevention is a rarity overall. And although arrests were made in all six weekend shootings, Duggan said, “nobody is celebrating.”
“It doesn’t help victims that law enforcement is working afterwards,” he said. “And here’s the truth; the point at which somebody sticks an illegal weapon under their belt and heads out of thier house, we’ve lost. We’re seeing beefs turning into shootings over and over.”
White said with an uptick in irresponsible gun ownership and “impulse decision-making,” Wednesday’s announcement couldn’t have come at a better time. Already this year, 18 kids in the city have been either a victim of gun violence or an accidental shooting, he said.
“People are finding their way to illegal weapons in our community and making those horrible decisions quickly that are following them for the rest of their lives,” White said. “One powerful aspect of this program is decision making, the opportunity to do something different.”
In the wake of the shootings, Detroit City Council members urged changes, including closing off some streets and a push from Council Member Mary Waters for gun-free zones in certain areas of Detroit’s downtown.
Ison said that isn’t a component of the One Detroit strategy. Duggan added that gun-free zones are only permitted under state law for churches, schools and other specific areas. But, while the city doesn’t have the legal right to create a gun-free zone, it can restrict illegal weapons.
“The city will come out with plans for screening to keep illegal weapons out,” he said. “When we do it’ll be fully compliant with state law and the (police) chief will be talking about in the coming weeks.”
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy also spoke Wednesday, saying all of the sectors are uniting for the common goal of making it safe for everyone. Since 2016, she said, 54 children have endured serious injuries or have been killed due to improper gun storage.
“Gun violence has replaced auto accidents as No. 1 killer of our children. We want to work every single day to make that an untrue fact in the City of Detroit,” Worthy said. “We have our work cut out for us. It’ll be hard, it’lll be challenging, It’ll be all encompassing. We’re committed and we’re willing to stare this issue down for everyone.”
Ison said strategies similar to One Detroit have already been deployed in Pontiac, Saginaw, Jackson and Flint and dramatically reduced nonfatal shootings or homicides.
From 2021-22, Jackson removed a violent gang and saw a 53% drop in nonfatal shootings and 43% decline in homicides. Over the one-year period, Pontiac saw nonfatal shootings drop by 70%, nonfatal shootings in Flint dipped by 42% and homicides by 38%, and Saginaw saw a 57% decline in nonfatal shootings, she said.
“We hope at the end of this partnership that we will be able to call out numbers like that for Detroit, because that’s our goal,” Ison said.