Dear members of the community:
This past spring, FOCIS launched CitizenDetroit, a series of community discussions and participatory budgeting exercises intended to drive conversation about some of the serious fiscal challenges facing Detroit’s residents and elected officials. The meetings gave residents who attended a more thorough understanding of the factors that led to our city’s financial crisis and a greater appreciation of the difficult choices that must be made if we are to fix our problems. Just as important, the events gave citizens a way to express how they would prioritize their long list of concerns, which included transportation, public lighting, parks and recreation and public safety. Our citizens let us know loudly and clearly that public safety is their number one priority.
FOCIS responded to citizens’ unease about crime by presenting City Under Siege: A University Forum on The Crime Crisis in Detroit. It was a two-day dialogue on ways that Detroit could better protect its citizens. The agenda spoke to the concerns of everyday citizens as well as law enforcement and criminal justice professionals, state and local government executives, educators, community leaders and non-profit organization leaders. Presenters discussed ways to build collaborative partnerships between law enforcement agencies and organizations in order to create solutions to our crime problem.
The program featured a variety of speakers and panelists including William J. Bratton, author, former Chief of Police for Los Angeles, California. Mr. Bratton, who also served as Police Commissioner for the cities of New York and Boston, was confirmed as the keynote speaker. He delivered the keynote address on the morning of September 21. Barbara McQuade, US Attorney General for the Eastern District of Michigan; George Kelling, criminologist and Sr. Fellow at the Manhattan Institute; and Ralph Godbee, Chief of the Detroit Police Department also agreed to participate in the program.
Detroit’s future hinges in large part on whether or not we can solve our crime problem. For too long, Detroit’s image has been one synonymous with crime. More than once, our city has topped the list of the most dangerous cities in America. Staggering poverty, widespread unemployment and a failing school system have so far exacerbated Detroit’s crime epidemic. And with our unparalleled budget crisis, hundreds fewer city police officers may be available to protect Detroit’s more than 700,000 citizens. It very well may be that our city can go no further until we find a way for residents, visitors and investors to feel safer – and actually to be safer.
Please join us,
Irvin D. Reid
Eugene Applebaum Chair
in Community Engagement