In recent months, Detroit has found itself in a tough situation in its ongoing war with crime. I use the word war as it relates to the communities that are combating criminal in the context of an open war in some neighborhoods. Detroit, historically has been an unique big city. Today, that uniqueness is not about historical glorious past. No, being the poorest big city is painful, tough and taxing. The sensitive fact that Detroit has the largest black population in the United States gives way to an undercurrent that is racially polarizing. I am a native of Detroit, and as a social scientist I have studied my native land for the past forty years. My critique at times is scorned, ridiculed and hated. I offer no apology, nor direspect in my sociological analysis coupled with a historical journey that is personal at times. What I have observed and participated in Detroit makes it difficult at times. This essay shares the challenge of giving an opinion that some will again scorn. Prevention of crime is a critical tool that I highly prescribe for communities regardless of their living format. Rural, suburban, urban or exurban. Prevention allows a sense of security for citizens without putting them into an uncomfortable posture of self defense. I strongly endorse prevention as a systemic defense with serious investment from all that can allow protection without the negatives of a more deadly finality in other means of defense.
This positon, prescription of preventive means draws ire, anger of some who feel that self-defense, better an armed self-defense is a better prevention. I have no qualm, dismisal of such defending self, family or property. My response is that Detroit is in an unique position due to the fact it needs more professional police service. Detroit, in the midst of a bigger challenge, bankruptcy is in great need of armed, well-trained professional law enforcement. Fiscal reduction has been a harsh reality for the City of Detroit. It is a challenge that allows little room for any significant change needed for the city. The answer is more police in the short, middle and long run for a major city. I clearly understand the demand for police service and that should not be confused with the question of right to bear arms. I have absolutely no point about the right to bear arms. It not a debate for my analysis, never has been. My concern with the issue is that the wild wild west behavior for some citizens and denizens is not best served by the armed defense shown recently. Our shootings in Detroit proved that there is a serious confrontation that sheds light on mental illness, drug addiction, declining morality, predatory practices and failed families to begin the discussion. I understand, have experienced first hand home invasions, car theft, robbery and assaultive attacks in Detroit. I have experienced similar crimes outside of Detroit. Crime is in many communities today. The fear of violence suffocates the quallity of decency in many communities. Detroit, once prosperous like other Michigan cities during an industrial boom is not grappling with re-tooling itself. Downtown Detroit is looking promising. Crime is in check, no doubt. The neighorboods are another story. No tax dollars are around with no serious employment for countless residents who in the past decades had serious jobs. The educational crisis is reality that has taken its toll on the city residents. No skills, training coupled with poor education leaves little for residents to look forward. The likes of fast food, service jobs are not able to sustain families in any respectful manner. The streets become the institution that employs many misguided youth, young men especially. There is an ugly, predatory type person emerging from the poor social conditions. No excuse to many, nonetheless a criminal against society awaits society. What should society do? The answer is understandable to arm yourself. It is credible to defend against any incoming force for sure. The armed defense will stand on the laws of the land. I clearly understand the defense mode for citizens. The point is not the usage, no contest. The defense is permanent, meeting force with force is reality. Democracy has used armed force to combat anything that tries to take freedom away in American democracy. I respect the fact, I am not protesting arms nor the the right to bear them. I am advocating that other means are better for a more humane prevention in the larger picture. The atmosphere is much to negative, normalizing violence in a way that has become almost sport. Jobs for some sounds unreal, I advocate that employment, respectable wages does a great deal to reduce crime. Some will become transgressors despite all pleas for re-defining criminal paths. That is not the majority of people in Detroit. My research has found historical communities in Detroit with a clear history of blue collar workers. European immigrants, southern black migrations are the citizens that came up north to find decent wages, jobs that sustain a working class movement that became the middle class. Now, emptiness and hollowness is what was once good solid living in communities like Pontiac, Flint, Saginaw. Jobs mean taxes, taxes provide services like police, fire and commerce. Post industrial Detroit has not shown an understanding of how seriously citizens need public safety, public education and a more civil answer to crime.
Without any doubt the self defense will maintain an attitude that protects the immediate standing of property, people and life. The serious fallout of defense has potential for deep and troubling ramifications. We should understand the seriousness of allowing life to be reduced to the lowest form. Brutality of domestic violence, demise of families, drug addiction, closing all recreational facilities in many communities reduces the quality of life for many youth, their families. The powerful status of poverty reminds me always of Gandhi declaration that most dangerous form of violence is poverty. I extend Gandhi’s point to include the poverty of spirit. An attitude that is equally insistent that crime exists, or worse that some people are not worth any intervention, assistance. The social intersections of family, education, faith based institutions, employment, youth development are tools. Tools, constructive tools for community development, improving our interactions that allow police to work with communties to prevent crime. Perhaps, civilian trained block clubs can patrol their communities to supplement or compliment professional law enforcement?
The armed forces within our communities should not be the first line of defense. The scope of citizens arming themselves during an urban crisis is reality. A reality that should leave policing to the professional leadership of professional public safety. In some smaller communities fire defense is taken up by community folks themselves with training, equipment given by the professional community. The complexity of public safety by the public is a sensitive subject. The truth is that vigilanted efforts can backfire causing an array of serious legal problems for all. Armed citizens is a reality that can easily get into trouble. Defend yourself by all means in a crisis. The thin line to justification for shooting anyone is a matter that is so complex it might seem clearly ignore the countless men, women returning from war damaged by the exposure to serious violence. These are professional soldiers like professional police who need counseling, therapy after the violence they encounter. Have we prepared ourselves for children in homes, communities that are war like? The normalization of violence is not what makes communities safe, nor liveable. Survival, living in war torn areas is not good for any citizens. Grassroots groups in Detroit are able to fitler the negativity of violence. Empowering citizens within the structure of preventiveness makes it much more palable for communities.
Our young children are already suffering from the domestic violence. Now, our armed defense may feel it is protecting families from danger. In the first part of defense it seems so clear, justified. Later, that chalk outline in our communities marks the dead body. Marks the exact place of deadly encounters that stay with anyone regardless of the rights to defend. The horrible tragic shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary demanded destroying the entire physical school. Why? Adults, children, families in that community no longer wanted to be reminded of that horrible day. In closing, as a young researcher I vividly recall the scene, the Detroit house in June of 1971 on Hazelwood. The house that had seven young adults murdered in a drug dispute. I once lived a few houses over on that Hazelwood block. The community, City of Detroit, the families decided to eradicated that home from that block. Why? Like the Sandy Hook Elementary School was the symbol of brutality no one needed to be reminded of the Hazelwood Massacre.
Prevention offers a balance that gives a means that is able to stop violence in its early development. Jobs are essential to not only provide stable life for families allows fiscal participation to maintain our communities