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Chief James Craig

Have we reduced fear in the community? This will be an important question for Detroit citizens to consider after the tenure of Emergency Manager-appointed Detroit Police Chief James Craig, and after the overall public policy experiment of emergency management.

The appointment of Craig represents an attempt to improve city services for Detroiters, one of Gov. Snyder and EM Orr’s promises. Streetlights and safe streets in exchange for democracy — a Faustian bargain for sure.

Craig appears to be competent and committed to improving morale, eliminating inefficiency and ending political cronyism in the police department. He promises transparency in promotions and has made subtle but important changes to improve morale such as not requiring police officers to stand for roll call.

Craig’s tenure marks the beginning of a new kind of public management, one that is grateful and unquestioning of public/private partnerships and gifts of police cars for corporations. He says, simply, the department needs the resources.

One project he is willing to take on is holding store and gas station owners accountable for what happens at their place of business. Changes could require store owners to hire armed security guards and off-duty police officers at their places of business. Store owners with a history of problems on their premises could have their liquor licenses taken away.

We applaud Craig in this and other initiatives to improve life in Detroit.

We have too many store owners taking the money they make in the city back to their suburban communities, hiding behind bullet proof glass and refusing to build the relationships needed between small business owners and the community — relationships that will keep order and respect present at corner stores.

It is imperative for Craig to restore police credibility with the community. Response time must improve and Detroiters are sick of constitutionally-wack policing where officers routinely disrespect and harass citizens. Yet, many of us know, at the root of the crime epidemic, the true way to eradicate crime is to tackle poverty.

Until we address joblessness, poor education options, lack of public transportation, no access to healthy food and health care, we will always have crime.

Craig says Detroiters are apathetic about crime. More accurately, Detroiters have grown apathetic about the lack of resources and bad policy that plague their city, which leads to crime. It’s time to demand all the resources necessary to improve quality of life for Detroiters.

This week, Gov. Snyder announced a multi-million dollar federal grant that will pay for the demolition of thousands of houses in Detroit. Instead of a superficial celebration, Detroiters need to ask: Where is the money going?

Millions of dollars will go to tearing down houses in Detroit but undoubtedly few African Americans or Detroiters will get the job or the contracts to get this work done. If Gov. Snyder cares about city services and Kevyn Orr wants to decrease crime in the city, tearing down houses won’t be enough — hiring Detroiters to do it will begin something critical.

So, when Chief Craig says he knows his time in Detroit will be successful when citizens are less fearful, lets think strategically about what this means.

Uncertainty is one of the defining characteristics of living in the hood. Uncertain pay days. Not certain if your utilities will be on when you return home. Not certain if your car will make it another day. Aware that you could be a victim of crime — a carjacking, home invasion, etc. Unable to guarantee a good education to your children. That defines the nature of uncertainty in Detroit.

Anything could happen at any moment. To truly reduce fear and crime — let’s create the systems that will get money and opportunity circulating in the city.

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