Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit Police Interim Chief James White announced a crackdown on unruly gatherings as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and Detroiters blow off steam after more than 15 months of the pandemic.
The announcement was made during a Thursday press conference, following a viral video that showed a massive brawl outside of Greektown Casino over the weekend that saw several arrested and some officers injured.
It was the very first weekend since the pandemic began that bars could stay open until 2 a.m.
“We get it,” White said. “We’ve all been shuttered in place. We’re coming out of COVID, we’re reemerging. We understand, but we have to do so responsibly. We cannot have this party atmosphere breaking out in front of homes and neighborhood parks until 2, 3, 4 o’clock in the morning, [with] loud music, fights, people bringing guns.”
The city announced a plan that includes increased police presence, strict noise enforcement, enforced curfews for children, and crackdowns on drag racing, drifting, tailgate-style parking lot parties, and open intoxicants.
The city says it’s also enforcing a 50-foot noise ordinance for buildings and a 10-foot ordinance for vehicles, and violations could result in suspending or revoking business licenses.
Duggan also approved White's request for 4,000 hours of overtime for DPD officers per week, and an additional 2,000 per weekend for drag racing and drifting enforcement.
The crackdown will target Greektown, the Riverfront, and Riverside, Rouge, Balduck, and Henderson parks.
“We will move this detail as needed,” White said. “This is not something that we're going to stick to. We will see how the problem trends. If it clears up in one area and starts to develop in another area, we will move on.”
As they did last year during the Black Lives Matter protests, the officials blamed the ruckus in part on “outsiders” from the suburbs and beyond, sharing videos showing men from Kalamazoo who brazenly posted drag racing videos to social media. The city wound up seizing their vehicles through civil asset forfeiture.
In all, the city says it is processing more than 37 seized cars.
“These are not just words, we’re going to do this,” deputy chief Todd Bettison said. “We’re going to do everything in our power not to return those vehicles. And we’re going to ticket drivers, and we’re going to ticket those who were standing around watching this behavior.”
White said that the increased police crackdown will not take away from the department’s ability to respond to 911 emergencies.
“This is about safety for all,” he said. “We want you to enjoy our city. We want you to come down. We want you to come into our neighborhoods, enjoy our beautiful parks, but do so safely.”
He added, “We know we're a destination town. Many of us have wanted this to happen and it's finally here, but we have to do so responsibly. We're not going to allow people to disrespect our community, disrespect our business owners, and disrespect our residents.”
The crackdown could set the stage for increased tensions between DPD and citizens, however.
In April, five legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild announced a lawsuit against DPD saying their civil rights were violated when officers attacked them while they were documenting last summer’s anti-police brutality protests, in which DPD used tear gas, batons, riot shields, and other instances of excessive force on the plaintiffs. The city used force in response to violations of the curfews it imposed during the protests.
The plaintiffs seek $75,000 in damages and injunctive relief to prevent further harm against observers.
You can watch the press conference on the city's Facebook page or below.
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