Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced this week a new crime prevention initiative for the city called Detroit One. The program would coordinate local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including ATF officers, to develop regular patrols of the streets. This comes just a day after Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr vowed to make public safety his top priority, mentioning bringing street lights back to the city. Democracy Tree reported earlier this month about the increased crime in the Motor City due to lack of public lighting from budget cuts. Detroit is currently the second most dangerous city in the nation, runner-up only to Flint.
It doesn’t take a financial wizard to know that public safety cannot improve without funding, and Detroit has been systematically starved of promised revenue sharing under both the Snyder and Granholm administrations. Mike Alberti, of Remapping Debate, puts it this way:
“Detroit needs much more than better management. It needs large-scale, purposeful investment. It needs new channels of communication between officials in the city, the suburbs, and the state house. Most of all, it needs a vision of the city that does not begin with the assumption that its residents must be forced to endure poor schools, dangerous neighborhoods, and a lack of basic services indefinitely.”
And the problem just got a whole lot worse in Wayne County. Associated Press reports that their Prosecutor’s office, facing a $160 million dollar deficit, just laid-off 22 attorneys and 3 investigators. They have a backlog of 40 homicides, 130 child abuse cases and 66 sexual assaults. Paula Bridges, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office said: “If it takes longer to get a case to court, that person will have to spend more days behind bars…This means we are going to be paying more to house these individuals”. It costs the county $140 per day for each prisoner.
Prosecutors are simply not showing-up in court for many misdemeanors. The staff shortage has left them unable to cover traffic court, with most cases being dismissed or adjourned. Wayne County is currently unable to cover its Personal Protection Order docket in Circuit Court and the misdemeanors docket in District Court. As of June of 2012, there were nearly $279 million in uncollected fees, fines and court costs.
As with all fiscal crises, the sequestration is simply piling-on. Bert Brandeburg, executive director of the court watchdog group, Justice at Stake, was quoted in Gavel Grab saying:
“[T]hese cuts threaten to erode several core constitutional values, including the right to a jury trial and due process”.
A grim outlook indeed, but turning the lights back on in Detroit would be a good start.
Amy Kerr Hardin This article also appears in Voters Legislative Transparency Project