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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Stopping the Systematic Stealing – A prescription for the City of Detroit.

Do you know that the thieves who strip Detroit homes and property are better organized than the police? Think about it. Just like a junk yard for car parts, a companion market has grown in parts for homes too. The end result of this criminal work is the systematic destruction of property, and the rapid descent in neighborhood home values. For NEW property owners, survival in this hostile, blatantly criminal environment is a struggle also. Here are three frustrating but real situations that thwart growth in Detroit.

Example one.
1. A young man used his savings to purchase a two family home and invest in its development.
2. He upgraded the appliances and brought the property up to code paid for the cost of a rental license from the city, and had a contract drawn up by a lawyer for the tenants.
3. Things were fine until the renter abruptly moved out.
4. Within 2 hours of their leaving the property, the place was stripped of its metal, materials and mechanical apparatuses (furnace, garbage disposal, etc).
5. The young man still has to make the house note despite the damage to the property.

Example two;
1. Elderly parents die;
2. The grief-stricken children and family members neglect the property;
3. An estate is open to pay for Mom’s funeral, to cover her past due bills, and to continue to operate her bank accounts;
4. The home is stripped before the first appearance in Probate Court; thieves take the copper pipes the aluminum siding, the appliances, the doors, the windows, the furnace, the iron, and strip the brick from the foundation and structure. The police reluctantly take a report but do not visit the home to investigate the damage.

Example Three:
1. A woman inherits a home.
2. The husband abandons her and two children.
3. She works 2 jobs to take care of the children and pay the bills.
4. The neighborhood crack addict breaks in and steals their personal items.
5. The crack addict develops a schedule breaking in based on the schedule of the working woman not being home.
6. Eventually he decides that he can break in while the woman and her family are home and attempts entry through the window.
7. The woman calls 911 while the children.
8. A passer by and a few helpful neighbors show up and intervene helping the woman fight the crack addict.
9. One hour later the police show up.
10. The woman frustrated, has had enough and moves out of the home for the safety of her children.
11. The property is abandoned and stripped of its assets.

In the third example, if the neighbors and the passerby were not fortuitously there, we would have had another major tragedy in the City of Detroit.

But Cush, how can you say that the thieves are better organized than the police? This question to the editor comes from the blog contributor Richard Clement by way of Royal Oak Township Michigan and a hard core Detroiter with our roots in the cement of 8 mile road and points south.

A succession of authority have policed the city and metropolitan area since the founding of Detroit in 1701: a militia, local army, metropolitan police department, city police department and Wayne County Sherriff have exercised the power of the people to keep order and protect people and property. The police are successful when they have the support and co-operation, information, and confidence in those who deliver the police service. Fear feeds on itself and when the people fear police as mush as criminals we have dysfunction. Human nature tells us that people lookout for themselves first.

When I began my political career, the addition of strong Detroit ties to police department officer affiliations strengthens our police efforts. We began and expanded police community relations through precinct organizations, CB patrols, and expanded the Police Reserves. The key to curtailing crime is comprehensive information coordination combined with communicational and caring law enforcement that reacts to and is interactive with city-wide citizen networks.

The criminals know their neighbor’s movements and the police don’t because so few of us have police officers living in our neighborhoods. When Officer Clement lives next door, he has to recognize what is going on and has to do something about it 24/7 not as an employee of the city, but a resident and a public servant. Police who live in the neighborhood and know people can better investigate break-ins, property crimes, and the senior citizens and the single mothers in the neighborhood.

Police Officers are fearless and are not afraid of criminals. They know the neighborhoods they live in and know them well. They know where there are potentially problematic vacant homes and the goings and comings of senior citizens, youths and families: the officers are involved in their community. They make neighborhood observations, they protect senior citizens who give them valuable information, non-withstanding of major community folk and the street cop that make life bearable in the city. This is the key to making the city work again: the relationship between the street cops and citizens.

The systematic criminals who strip our property are watching the comings and goings in the neighborhood. They are stealing and selling mechanical devices, toilets, sinks, wire, pipe, furnaces, etc., to home contractors who use these stolen devices on someone else’s property. Contractors mostly do not, but should, question from where these devices are coming. Second hand dealers should be legally required to keep a log documenting all hardware they purchase and sell. Furthermore, I would support an ordinance to require building equipment, materials to be imprinted as we have done with auto parts to help track stolen merchandise.

Police Citizens Band (CB) units should help coordinate vulnerable people’s comings and goings. City Council needs to review ordinances and budgets so that CB patrols can provide police investigative information and to provide fuel for CB Volunteer automobiles and motorcycles. The CB patrols should be expanded to include cell phones and more reports though the 411 system. Police community relations should have access to virtual mps and other GPS devices.

A google-type picture of every home and business in the City of Detroit on file with the assessor’s office should be kept in a public database. We would have a new way of policing when a 911 call comes in and a picture of the home or business comes on the screen of the police car, the dispatcher, and the CB patrol, along with text message notification to the home occupier’s cell phone.

Scrap dealers should be legally required to question and keep logs of their bills of sale for the purchase and sell of home-related assets. As for punishment in lieu of jail time, first time offenders could be a part of the revitalization by paying their debt to society by assisting with restoring at least one complete home. Jobs on a property include tasks such as painting, installation, cleaning, construction, and other needs as determined by people selected from the home vandalism victim database which each municipality would be required to maintain. This is truly a statewide issue to find alternatives to imprisonment for stealing and illegal drug use. These actions would bring back the true meaning of community service and giving back to our community in a positive way.

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