Gun violence in Detroit has claimed 17 lives in the past 10 days, according to police tasked with patrolling a city where economic turmoil, empty houses and high unemployment have lent itself to creeping lawlessness.
On Sunday, a baby girl was delivered after her mother was shot dead, but later died in the hospital, on the city’s west side. Wednesday, a promising law student was found in her car in a vacant lot after she was shot in the head. The same day, three men were killed and six wounded after gunfire erupted in a barbershop known for gambling. Meanwhile the killing of a teenage girl, shot in the head last Saturday on a stranger’s porch while asking for help after a car accident, has increased racial tensions in the city.
The list of killing goes on.
Police say the deaths in the past week bring the total homicides for 2013 to 292.
“The reality of it is we’ve had a violent week of crime. Everyone in this department is very cognizant of it. But at some point, the public has to take culpability and be a part of the solution. It’s not just a Detroit Police Department problem, it’s a city of Detroit problem, and we all need to stand together,” Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s spokesman, Sgt. Michael Woody, told Detroit News.
Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in July, with a debt of about $18bn. The filing is the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, and the economic impact can be seen throughout the city in its abandoned buildings, vacant lots, and unemployment rates of over 18 percent.
Bill Nowling, a spokesman for the city’s emergency manager Kevin Orr, said the recent spate of killings highlighted the challenges facing the city and suggested prioritizing police activities in upcoming budget restructuring, according to Detroit News.
A column in the Detroit Free Press called on Detroit’s mayor-elect Mike Duggan to bring up the topic of increasing violence in conversations with other state leaders, instead of focusing solely on the bankruptcy.
“Talking about Detroit 2.0 without discussing the violence is like making plans to host dinner for 300 people at your brand-new restaurant because you haven’t realized the kitchen is burning down,” columnist Rochelle Riley said.
Orr has said he will make fighting crime a top priority in his battle to restructure the city after the bankruptcy. Craig, who took over the police department as chief in July, said his goal is to get more officers on the streets, according to the Detroit Free Press.
These statements were made just after the FBI released statistics for 2012 showing that Detroit ranks among the most violent and deadly large cities in the U.S. with 386 homicides.
A group called the Detroit 300 echoed the police statement calling on every citizen to take responsibility for the increasing violence. Detroit 300, founded by local activists, believes grassroots leadership is the best way to fight crime in their neighborhoods.
The Detroit 300 doesn’t rely on the city’s cash-strapped police force – they make citizens’ arrests themselves and put the responsibility for stopping the violence on every resident, urging people to get involved when they see or suspect a crime happening.
Local church leaders, who see the recent violence as an emergency, had a different idea – they plan to inundate the city with the simple message ‘thou shalt not kill.’
“Our goal now is to infiltrate and saturate our communities with this commandment, via buses, via billboards,” a local Christian minister, Ovella Andreas, told local news CBS Detroit.