Detroit— In a week the city elected a new mayor and the state’s governor appeared on national TV news shows touting its revival, residents were dealing with the stark realities of crime in the city — nine dead in seven days.
The incidents began Sunday when a baby girl was delivered after her mother and a companion were killed in the 9200 block of Meyers Road, on the west side near Joy and West Chicago.
On Wednesday, three men were killed and six were wounded in a shootout in a barbershop on Seven Mile near Keystone in northeast Detroit.
Early Friday, three people were found dead on the living room floor of a west side house. Later in the day, at 5:05 p.m., a man’s body was discovered in a garbage can in northwest Detroit. Police said they would await autopsy results from Wayne County Medical Examiner to determine whether it was a homicide.
According to the police, these latest homicides bring the total in Detroit for the year to 292, including the addition of 17 slayings in the past 10 days.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig was unavailable Friday for comment on the spate of killings, but his spokesman, Detroit Police Sgt. Michael Woody, said the department is doing what it can to respond to the violence. But police cannot do it alone, he cautioned.
“The reality of it is we’ve had a violent week of crime,” Woody said. “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.”
Bill Nowling, a spokesman for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, said the week’s violence highlights the dire challenges facing the city.
“It underlines to a certain degree what we’re up against in terms of restructuring,” he said. “It emphasizes why public safety and delivery of services need to be the top priority for the city.”
Nowling called the crimes “tragic and senseless,” but noted that most were committed in the presence of other illegal activities. “That’s why it’s important that we’re able to get through this restructuring process so we can make investments in increasing police activity,” he said.
Ron Scott, director of the Coalition Against Police Brutality, said the examples of violence plaguing Detroit are based on myriad issues that include substance abuse, domestic violence and other crimes.
“Every battle or argument is not meant to be a battle that ends a life,” Scott said, whose group also emphasizes conflict resolution in neighborhoods to curtail crime before it happens. “It becomes easy to resolve something and not even know the consequences. We have allowed ourselves to be desensitized to black on black murder. But we can get a grip on it.”
Malik Shabazz, a longtime activist who has been working to empower residents to fight crime, said crime is a “bigger and more pervasive problem than any of us realize.” It will take a massive effort from every resident to cure Detroit’s violent ills, he added.
“The city of Detroit is a microcosm of a macrocosm of our nation. It’s a violent nation that we live in,” Shabazz said. “We as a society, as a nation, as a city, we are failing to create good human beings. Good human beings have to be molded, have to be taught, have to shown.”
Shabazz said his Marcus Garvey Movement, which has been going block to block in an attempt to stop crime before it happens, reports some successes. But “the city can’t be saved by one organization,” he said. “Everybody’s got to get involved. Everybody’s got a role to play in fighting this crime and grime that takes place.”
He made the comments later Friday after reports that police had been called to the 3200 block of West Philadelphia where the bodies of a woman, 22, and two men, 32 and 35, each with gunshot wounds to the head, had been found on the floor in a lower unit of a house.
Only a day earlier, the police chief had described the shootings at the barbershop as an act of “urban terrorism.”
One local minister warned Friday the violent death of an African-American in Detroit “has become normal.”
“The challenge is how to sensitize people to the fact that this is not normal that we live in a war zone,” said the Rev. David Bullock, pastor Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church.
Scott said he believes city residents can start paying attention to stopping crime if they are properly engaged. He cited an incident in which members of his organization interceded last year and helped convince a man who had his bicycle stolen by some youth from getting into an altercation. Scott said that same evening his group was putting on a play about curtailing violence.
“We can’t just react,” Scott said. “We have to focus on the sanctity of life.”
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