I have a friend who works downtown. He sometimes opens the store first thing in the morning.
Now more than ever, he finds lunatics and drunks flopped out in the doorway. He asks them to move. That's when they get surly. Some howl. Some threaten. That's how it goes when the ill don't get their meds. One guy, "Loincloth Larry," walks around naked except for an over-sized bandanna tied around his junk.
So my pal calls the cops. Sometimes the operator puts him on hold. After five minutes, he'll hang up and call again. Sometimes nobody answers.
I don't want problems, my pal tells me. I don't want to end up on the news. So sometimes he delays opening the store and sits in his car waiting for the bare-assed buckaroo to grow hungry and amble down the road.
It's best not to look backwards in America. There's no future in that. But then again, is this what our future looks like, post-Covid? What's going on around here? What's the plan?
Rent is too damn high. Gas is too damn high. Food is too damn high. Homelessness is too damn high and getting higher. And crime is a damn outrage.
In the wake of George Floyd's murder, we've had a year of strident calls across the country for defunding the police. Our own clueless congressional representative, Rashida Tlaib, went so far as to tweet: “No more policing, incarceration, it can't be reformed.”
The cop exodus
And talk like that has had its debilitating effect. It should be remembered that Detroit cops have been heading for the door since they were partially defunded in the city's bankruptcy settlement, and hundreds of others have beat it for other jurisdictions. Officers are overworked and undermanned. Some may not feel incentivized to answer a high-priority call as a matter of priority.
The headlines are appalling. A 2-year-old was murdered in a case of mistaken identity. The shooters, I'm told, were looking to avenge the shooting of three of their associates. They got the wrong car, cops tell me.
So numb have we become to the violence, the triple shooting that set the whole thing in motion didn't warrant a single sentence in any mainstream media report, as far as I'm aware. Gang bangers and drifters know there is a yawning lack of police presence on city streets, and so they drive around with impunity.
Then there's the “person of interest” in a Detroit double homicide who was freed on a tether while awaiting trial for murder in a Washtenaw County jail. A naive judge had given him a Covid release, placing him on an ankle tether. But wouldn't you know it about alleged murders? They tend to cut those tethers off. No one in a position of authority appears to have made it a priority to track down the person of interest. He turned himself in.
Last year was the bloodiest year in America in a quarter-century. And it's worse this year. Detroit, by my calculation, will again rank as one of the nation's most violent cities. And who are the victims? The people in the neighborhoods. Those who call 911 and are put on hold.
Chief James Craig has retired -- off to greener pastures and a potential run for governor office (if he can manage to get his act together).
Chief James E. White was named his interim replacement. And while White has reinvigorated the department with his professionalism and attention to detail, there is no real long-term plan in Detroit to do much about crime besides throwing a few Biden bucks at it for police overtime.
Remember this is an election year. Mayor Mike Duggan should have his feet held to the fire. More than 500 children have been shot since he took office in 2014. All the while, billions of public dollars have gone for sweetheart contracts, developer subsidies, and his bloated bureaucracy. Beleaguered citizens continue to run for the city limits. Those left behind live in America's most segregated neighborhoods.
As for the bedazzled man in the bandanna-bloomers? The police showed up this morning with a mental health worker at their side. (Thank you, interim Chief White.) But by the time cops arrived, Loincloth Larry had shambled on down the avenue.