I hope your week is ending on a positive note, despite the storms and power outages. Through the (unbearable) summer haze, we’ve managed to wrangle some thought-provoking stories for you. We’re diving into what crime news does to your brain, getting to the root of why so many people watch and read just so much crime news.
We’re also highlighting two members of the city’s newest industry standards board, Brandice Mullen and Porsha Perry will join seven other Detroiters on a board tasked with laying the groundwork to improve safety and conditions for workers at the Little Caesars Arena, Ford Field and Comerica Park.
One thing on our minds this week is the death of Southfield teen Khalil Amari Allen, who was shot earlier this month in Detroit. Khalil had joined a new rap group and his mom was concerned this had brought some bullies into his life. She pleaded to the Southfield Public School District and the police for help. Khalil’s murder raises questions about where a school’s responsibility lies in protecting students when they are outside of school and what more we all need to do to keep young people safe. If you have thoughts or experience with this kind of situation, hit reply and let’s talk about it.
Keep reading, we have much more in store for you.
add up these numbers
This week Michigan became the 22nd state to outlaw the practice of “conversion therapy,” for LGBTQ+ youth. The practice is defined as any treatment by a mental health professional that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
the psychology of consuming crime news
As we’ve discussed before, Streetlight’s mission is to forge a path into the future of safety reporting – and away from traditional journalism practices around crime. But the reporting and the reporters are only half of the crime news equation. Why do so many people consume so much crime news?
Do people watch crime news because there’s so much of it? Or do journalists report on crime because that’s what people want to see?
We talked with Outlier Media science reporter Koby Levin to discuss the psychology behind consuming crime news.
You spoke with psychology professor Amanda Vicary at Illinois Wesleyan University. What did you learn about the relationship between consuming crime news and an individual’s perception of their safety?
People’s perception, like on a societal level, of crime is notoriously unrelated to how much crime there actually is. Vicary talked about a cycle that can occur with crime news consumption. The idea is that you read a story about a crime, and then you’re more concerned. You’re like, ‘Oh, that happened in my city, maybe it can happen to me or to someone I know.’ And so you return to crime news. Before long your perception is changed that there’s more crime going on in the city than there actually is.
In your conversations with Vicary and Wayne State Criminology and Criminal Justice associate professor Laura Starzynski, what did they say about how the ideas people get from taking in crime news correspond with reality?
They said that if anything, there’s not a clear relationship between crime reporting and national crime. Murders, kidnappings, serial killers – the stuff that makes good crime headlines and drives traffic – are a very, very minor danger to people statistically. People are way more likely to be killed by a significant other or another family member than they are by a stranger, or certainly by a serial killer. And bottom line, people are unlikely to be killed and unlikely to be the victims of violent crime. The vast majority of crime that happens is non-violent. Crime reporting does not have a clear relationship to the actual crimes that take place.
Moving into the future, what solutions did the professors suggest in terms of people getting an accurate read of safety in their community?
Their focus is on what the media can do, and even that is limited. Part of it is just explaining to people that there are shortfalls in the information that’s available and it’s missing some important context. The most likely source of violence in your life is your intimate partner and/or your family members (not a stranger). Petty and nonviolent crimes are the most common types of crime. That stuff is happening to so many more people across the community than violent crime, but how do you find out about it? You might have better luck with building relationships with people in your neighborhood.
»in these streets
speed through key safety news
Contaminated waters: An environmental advocacy group reports that 43% of Michigan beaches monitored for E. coli saw unsafe bacterial levels at some point last year. E. coli, which is found in animal and human poop, can cause diarrhea and fever when swallowed. Even so, some cities continue to dump raw sewage into our waterways. The three local beaches with the most potentially unsafe days in 2022 were all on Lake St. Clair in Macomb County. (WDET, Environment America)
Automated transportation: Detroit’s Office of Mobility Innovation (OMI) received a $2.5 million federal grant to test automated shuttles as transport for seniors and disabled residents. Testing will start early next year, with service expected to begin in late 2024. OMI Chief Tim Slusser said these programs are separate from the city’s existing paratransit service, and will not replace it. (BridgeDetroit, Detroit Department of Transportation)
Pollution without punishment: In 2020, hazardous waste company US Ecology South reached a legal agreement with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to address ongoing issues, but has been cited 14 times since then for environmental violations – including a leak that could have contaminated groundwater – with little repercussions, leaving residents angry and wondering if EGLE is choosing not to enforce its rules or lacks the power to do so. (BridgeDetroit)
No guns here, buddy: Michigan Court of Appeals sustained the University of Michigan’s prohibition of firearms after the university was sued for violating the Second Amendment for denying Ann Arbor resident Joshua Wade the right to openly carry his gun on campus. Last Thursday’s ruling by a two-judge panel upheld the 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller that policymakers for a “sensitive place,” such as a school, are responsible for addressing public safety there. Wade’s attorney said they’re considering appealing to the state Supreme Court. (Detroit Free Press, Justia)
Watchdogging: The Detroit Documenters are going to continue observing juvenile court cases, as part of an ongoing investigation into conditions at the Wayne County juvenile detention facilities. Monitoring these hearings is a key method of tracking conditions at facilities, which have been overcrowded and understaffed. (Outlier Media)
Eviction guide: Got an unwelcome eviction notice taped to your door recently? Learn more about the process and where to find help using BridgeDetroit’s new guide outlining eviction laws. Renters facing eviction can also find help by contacting the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, or by dialing 211 for the United Way helpline. (BridgeDetroit)
get to know the people and places that make us safer
The city’s first industry standards board is being created to study working conditions for employees at Little Caesars Arena, Comerica Park and Ford Field. Two Detroiters appointed to represent arena employees say the board will protect workers in the fight for better pay, more consistent schedules, childcare and increased security on the job.
Brandice Mullen, Michigan state director of SEIU Local 1, said arena workers have been critical to the revitalization of downtown Detroit but many struggle to pay their bills. “…There are many folks who are actually homeless and are working to survive,” Mullin said. She believes the industry standards board will give workers a stronger voice to improve their quality of life.
“I believe in my city and I believe in the work of people,” Mullen said. “You get so much more out of people when you listen to what they have to say. These workers take pride in what they do.”
Porcha Perry has worked security, housekeeping and greeting jobs at all three arenas since 2015.
A mother of two, Perry said the flexible schedule is one of the main reasons she’s stayed but it’s difficult to plan for bills when her hours are inconsistent. Each of her three arena jobs pays differently and has different demands. Perry said employees are often overworked and undertrained, which burns people out quickly.
Safety is Perry’s biggest concern at work. She said she’s faced threats from attendees and has felt unsafe leaving downtown venues late at night. She would feel more comfortable if employees had an escort to walk with them back to their cars at the end of a shift.
“I have to encounter disorderly people trying to fight me, multiple threats,” Perry said.
Mullen and Perry are among a slate of six nominees who were appointed by the city council. Those six will be joined by three more members who will be appointed by Mayor Mike Duggan. Once assembled, the nine-member board will make recommendations for industry-wide standards.
“Our city is moving and thriving, but the people who are working every single day are going through some things,” Mullen said. “How do we figure it out so they are able to be successful toward the building and uplift of the city?”
»rewind: community policing
take a trip through time
Whether it’s a “peacenic” or a volleyball camp sponsored by the Detroit Police Athletic League, community events with the Detroit Police Department (DPD) are nothing new. As the anniversary of the 1967 Detroit uprising is upon us, let’s take a look at some of the methods used by DPD to polish its reputation without necessarily committing to reforms, which might better improve relations between residents and the department.
»healing & helping
give and receive care
Looking to dance your troubles away but don’t feel quite comfortable in a club environment? Head to Andy Arts tonight when Detroit and A2 Ecstatic Dance host a “conscious clubbing” dance party. The DJ will be a licensed social worker, there will be an opening and closing circle and the space is inclusive and ADA-accessible. There are a few rules: Get there by 7:30 p.m., no phones on the dance floor and music is the only intoxication allowed. Tickets are based on financial ability, ranging from $10 to $20, honor system. More info.
keep an eye on Detroit’s police oversight body
In a meeting on July 20, Chief Investigator Jerome Warfield reported that officers showed “unwarranted excessive force” against an individual who was pulled over outside of their home in June. Police did not reveal why the person was pulled over. After the person asked why they were stopped, officers wrestled them to the ground, struck them in the face, and placed them into handcuffs. This is one of four investigations into police misconduct Warfield’s Office of the Chief Investigator (OCI) has said has been elevated for extra scrutiny.
Other incidents the BOPC was briefed on included an officer using foul and aggressive language after arriving 3 hours late to a person’s home in June, an officer who shot a dog in January and an officer who did not capture body-worn camera footage during a May traffic stop.
Police Chief James White assured the board that if the OCI investigations find officers in violation of department policy, then “discipline will be certain.” He also said that the majority of DPD runs are handled appropriately and wanted to make it clear to the board that these specific cases aren’t representative of the city’s police officers.
“(It) does not represent the totality of our agency,” he said. “It represents those officers who chose to take that posture and position and they will be held accountable for it.”
Yesterday, the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners said it had referred some of these police misconduct cases to the Detroit police’s internal affairs unit for further review and possible disciplinary actions.
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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, Lynelle Herndon, Sarah Alvarez, Malak Silmi and Koby Levin, BridgeDetroit’s Malachi Barrett and Alex Klaus of the Detroit Documenters.