Welcome back — and happy unofficial start to the summer (and happy Gun Violence Awareness Month?). We have a lot in store for you as downtown Detroit braces for its first Grand Prix in more than 30 years. We’ve got updates on flood remediation bound for one westside neighborhood, a check-in on the state of surveillance and ATV safety, and a look back at the history of youth curfews in the city.
But first, as temperatures heat up, officials are kicking off familiar summer crime reduction campaigns, despite the program’s questionable efficacy. Law enforcement officials are ramping up efforts to curb crime in summer, which has been shown in some instances to cause an increase in offenses, mostly by intensifying officer presence. The city of Baltimore has just announced it’s taking a different approach. It’s leaning on city and civilian staff to enforce its youth curfew, rather than using police officers. If youths are out past curfew, their parents can be ticketed or sent to family counseling. Young people will be transported to community centers where their parents will need to pick them up. We’re interested to see how this approach turns out. Do you want to see Detroit try something like this?
Since our last edition, the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners has renewed a call for the full, unedited footage of Detroit police’s fatal encounter with Porter Burks, which we highlighted last time. The footage was supposed to be released in May. Assistant Police Chief Charles Fitzgerald said Chief James White will release the video when he feels “comfortable.”
What are your safety concerns as the summer kicks off? We’d also like to know your favorite places or organizations for healing and relaxing. As always, my inbox is open: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time,
add up these numbers
During the first four months of 2023, judges in Detroit’s 36th District Court signed more than 1,800 eviction orders — a 136% jump compared with the same period last year. Evictions uproot families and disrupt neighborhoods, hurting tenants’ mental health and destabilizing individuals into a cycle of poverty and homelessness.
take a trip through time
After a string of shootings in Greektown, the Detroit Police Department announced in April that it would increase curfew enforcement for people under 18. Let’s rewind to a moment 40 years ago, when Detroit Mayor Coleman Young tried the same thing.
»in these streets
speed through key safety news
Court in session: In-person eviction hearings will resume at the 36th District Court Monday, to cut down on filings. Advocates are worried about tenant accessibility, but in-person hearings will remain for at least three months. (Detroit Free Press)
Double red: After an increase in drownings in the Great Lakes, Michigan officials tweaked the beach warning system. Now, when the water is rough, two red flags will fly on state beaches, forbidding visitors from swimming. (Freep)
The water’s fine: Closer to home, many Detroiters are wary of swimming at Belle Isle, pointing to the city’s troubled environmental history. But the water is actually quite clean and usually safe for swimming, experts say, thanks to the island’s location and steady current. Just don’t jump in after a heavy rain. (Outlier Media)
Gardens over flooding: Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood was hit hard by flooding in 2021 but is now in line for 24 new stormwater retention gardens. This is part of a plan to limit flooding and basement backups after historic rains in 2021 revealed the limitations of the sewer system. The “Fenkell Stormwater Project” is expected to cost $3.4 million. (Michigan Radio)
Early release: A new bill being drafted in Lansing would give Michigan inmates the opportunity for earlier release if they complete job training and education programs. The bill’s current draft says that for every month spent in these programs, a prisoner would get 20 days off their sentence. Some crime victims say certain violent offenders should be excluded from consideration. (WXYZ)
Somebody’s watching you: Project Greenlight, ShotSpotter, automated license plate readers, DPD’s “Real Time Crime Center” — surveillance in Detroit has skyrocketed in recent years. DETROITography found nearly 3,000 cameras in the greater downtown area and mapped them all. (DETROITography)
Living in the fast lane: If you want to quench your need for speed — from a safe distance — you’re in luck this weekend as the Grand Prix is back downtown for the first time in decades. Here’s everything you need to know about this weekend’s race, including what you can do for free, how to get around and where to park. (WXYZ, BridgeDetroit, Freep)
More in safety: Bicycle accidents were down 14% in Detroit between 2017 and 2021, compared to 2016 to 2021. Data from the state police shows that there were more than 282,000 vehicle crashes in 2021; of those, 421 involved wrong-way drivers. Here’s what to do if you see a wrong-way driver coming your way. The City Council is asking the health department to look into the potential dangers of cellular towers on students as several towers have been installed on district buildings. (Axios, WXYZ, Metro Times)
Don’t miss Navigating a Mental Health Crisis: a Michigan Radio Amplify event, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 17 at Northwest Activities Center. This free event provides Detroit residents with tools and resources to identify and respond to a mental health crisis. Food and beverages will be available. Kids are welcome. Register here.
dig into the facts on ATVs
In some Detroit neighborhoods, the sound of summer is the high-whining engines of four-wheelers, mini all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and dirt bikes popping wheelies down city streets, often in packs.
ATVs are types of off-road recreational vehicles (ORVs). ORV crashes are a small portion of vehicle crashes, but the rate is increasing along with the fatalities linked to them. The 436 ORV crashes in 2021 accounted for 0.1% of all accidents in the state, according to state traffic reports, with a 40% surge in fatalities over the last few years.
An ordinance before City Council would ban gas stations from selling fuel to all unregistered vehicles. ATVs are illegal to drive on city streets, so the ban is meant to help Detroit police crack down on ATVs. The measure would keep businesses from profiting from refueling the low-slung vehicles and give police officers a place to confiscate vehicles and arrest drivers while hopefully avoiding a chase.
Last month, Detroit police tased and arrested the driver of an ATV after he crashed into a patrol car.
Streetlight Detroit submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Detroit Police Department for the number of ATV-related incidents in 2022 on May 25, and will circle back when we get the findings.
»healing & helping
give and receive care with these upcoming opportunities
Tammara Howard’s What About Us? community hub offers a place for residents to connect and share resources to help them adapt to a warming climate. Local nonprofit Eastside Community Network is working with Howard and others on Detroit’s eastside to develop a network of climate resilience hubs. The hubs, an important tactic for historically under-resourced communities, provide a safe place to charge phones, store medicine during power outages or find cool relief during heat waves. Hubs can also be a point of contact to learn about resources to prepare residents to escape a crisis. More than two decades ago, Howard also launched the Belvidere Community Youth Block Club — in the same neighborhood where she grew up — with youth and families in mind.
Who and what would you like to see profiled in Streetlight? Hit reply, or email email@example.com to share your wishlist or nominations.
keep an eye on Detroit’s police oversight body
For the last few weeks, the BOPC has spun its wheels over controversial License Plate Recognition (LPR) technology while ultimately failing to claw back their rushed approval of DPD’s request to spend $5 million on the surveillance technology.
At issue for public commenters who have spoken against LPR cameras, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which also opposes the technology, is how it can be used. They argue that the cameras don’t just read a license plate, but they also record the make, model and color of the vehicle, identifying marks like dents and bumper stickers, as well as the time, location and direction of travel, creating a mass surveillance network by logging every vehicle that passes.
It is this potential for intrusive surveillance that had those opposed to LPRs up in arms when the BOPC approved the Specification Report in its initial vote. The report specifies the manner in which police are permitted to use the technology. It is the BOPC’s responsibility to wrestle with these requests and then change or approve them before City Council votes up or down.
The BOPC approved the report after hearing only from the police department and not from civil liberty or privacy advocates. ACLU lawyer Ramis Wadood was invited to present at the May 25 BOPC meeting — a week after commissioners approved the technology — where he lambasted the board for not engaging in sincere debate and oversight and questioned whether his presentation highlighting major deficiencies in the specification report was too late.
The BOPC considered rescinding its original vote and restarting the process, but the motion to rescind failed 3-4.
This project is brought to you by BridgeDetroit, Chalkbeat Detroit, Detroit Free Press, Detroit Metro Times, Michigan Radio, Planet Detroit, WDET 101.9 FM, WXYZ-TV and Outlier Media/Detroit Documenters.
This edition was written by the Detroit Free Press’ Nushrat Rahman, Outlier Media’s Lynelle Herndon, Noah Kincade, Koby Levin and Aaron Mondry, Michigan Radio’s Beenish Ahmed, Planet Detroit’s Nina Ignaczak, and Alex Klaus of the Detroit Documenters.