Streetlight Detroit

Good morning!

Happy Friday, and welcome to the best month of the year: October Crime Prevention Month. Also around the corner is Indigenous Peoples Day, which will be celebrated with a feast at Eastern Market on Monday evening. For now, we’ve got a great newsletter for you with all the goods: automatic license plate readers and postal scams and toxic mold, oh my! 

We’re also diving into residency rules for Detroit police and city employees in Detroit. Back in the day, police officers were required to live in the city. It sparked a load of issues between city officials and police union leaders. Residency requirements have been gone for decades, replaced by some incentives for job applicants who are residents. Are you a city employee or police officer? How did you make a choice about where to live? Detroit residents, would you feel safer living next door to a police officer? I’d love to know more, email me at

Until next time,


»the count

add up these numbers

Michigan has the largest juvenile lifer population in the nation. More than 300 young people under 18 have been sentenced to life in prison without parole, and one in five of those inmates have been in prison for at least 25 years, according to Safe and Just Michigan

»in these streets

speed through key safety news

Death to life without parole: A bill introduced in the state Legislature would ban life in prison without parole for people under 19 years old. Michigan has the notorious distinction of sentencing more juveniles to life in prison than all but one state. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that laws mandating life without parole for juveniles were unconstitutional, but some Michigan inmates have not been resentenced. (Michigan Radio)

Toxic mold: As flooding incidents worsen in Detroit, so does the amount of black mold in homes. Mold is linked to higher rates of asthma, and Detroiters already have some of the highest rates of asthma in the country. The city is working to reduce pressure on its combined sewer system by updating its aging water infrastructure and through stormwater projects. (BridgeDetroit)

Urban forests: An urban forest project coming to Delray is expected to clean the neighborhood of pollution and create a buffer between residents and truck traffic. Thousands of  trees will be planted along Dearborn Street between Jefferson Avenue and I-75, with hope the trees will help with stormwater retention and purify soil and groundwater. (BridgeDetroit)

Department jumping: The Detroit Police Department (DPD) violated state law when it falsely reported that an officer accused of misconduct “resigned in good standing.” Former DPD Officer Kairy Roberts resigned under pressure following an internal investigation after he punched an unarmed man in the face in Greektown. Roberts failed to provide medical aid to the man, and then later lied about the encounter. He landed a job in the Eastpointe Police Department (EPD) last year. DPD did not report the alleged misconduct. Roberts has since resigned from EPD and the state suspended his law enforcement license. (Metro Times, WXYZ)

Guardianship accountability: A bill establishing an Office of State Guardian has been introduced in Lansing to give families somewhere to file complaints about their court-appointed guardian. One of several bills, this one would bring additional oversight to Michigan’s guardianship system and could address concerns that many advocates say can hurt families and cost people their life savings. (WXYZ)

¡Scam alert! Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is warning residents about fraudulent smishing text messages with false delivery notifications and tracking links, pretending to be from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Smishing scams might ask for a password, account number or social security number. Residents can spot this scam by paying attention to the sender’s email address, which will not be from Additionally, the suggested link won’t match the USPS website. (State of Michigan)

»BOPC watch

keep an eye on Detroit’s police oversight body

Catch up on the latest with the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners. This week’s BOPC meeting included two discipline discussions — one in closed session to consider suspensions without pay for a pair of police officers assigned to Downtown Services.

»explained: How do license plate readers work?

dig into the facts

There are automatic license plate readers deployed at 34 locations throughout Detroit, with more to come to an intersection near you. These plate readers use high-speed cameras to capture images of all vehicles that pass by. They are said to help law enforcement find cars tied to suspicious activity. 

In September, City Council approved a $5 million contract to install more cameras, meaning Detroit could eventually have as many as 100 locations with these cameras throughout the city. 

Data collected from vehicles includes the license plate number, make, model, vehicle occupants, distinguishing features like bumper stickers or body damage, and what state the car is registered in. The technology can be used to find stolen vehicles and aid investigations of missing persons and violent crimes.

The cameras captured images from 25 million license plate scans within a 90-day period ending Sept. 20, according to a DPD memo

According to DPD, 0.2% of plates scanned were connected to a potential crime and an even smaller fraction resulted in an arrest.

There were 45,314 hits for vehicles connected to criminal investigations and 64 arrests made as a “direct result” of alerts generated by the cameras.

Data collected by the cameras is retained for 90 days, and other police agencies can access information collected from the cameras through data sharing agreements. 

DPD policy prohibits the technology from being used for traffic enforcement, monitoring a person’s movements outside their car or taking still photographs of people.

DPD keeps a “hot list” of license plate numbers tied to criminal investigations. When cameras identify a license plate that matches the hot list, an alert is sent to the Real Time Crime Center. Any alert provided by a license plate camera requires further verification before police take action, according to DPD policy.

»Rewind: Cops in the city: Revisiting residency requirements in Detroit

take a trip through time

An old map of the Detroit metropolitan area from the 1930’s where different neighborhoods are overlaid with blocks of different colors. The map was commissioned by the federal Home Owners Loan Corporation and served as a guide for banks and other lenders making mortgages. Loans should not be made to neighborhoods marked in red on the map. The map is a visual representation of the practice of “redlining.”
A map commissioned by the federal Home Owners Loan Corporation that entrenched and informed the practice of redlining. Residency requirements for city employees and police officers were used as a correction for segregation in some cities and a way to resist integration in others. Photo credit: “20190813 36 Detroit Historical Museum (2)” by Daniel Wilson, licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Detroit Police Department tracks how many of its officers live within the city limits, and when they took stock in July, just under a quarter of people working as Detroit police officers lived in Detroit. 

For decades before the millennium, a city ordinance had a “residency requirement” that required all Detroit employees — including police officers — live in the city. The rule sparked endless controversy, and there is still speculation about its impact.

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 Outlier Media’s Miriam Marini, SaMya Overall, Aaron Mondry, Malachi Barrett of BridgeDetroit and Detroit Documenters’ Alex Klaus.

Miriam (she/her) is a strong believer that journalism should hold leaders accountable and serve as a platform for marginalized groups. She can often be found at The Congregation — usually with a hot mocha in hand and finding an outlet to charge her dying laptop.