It’s no lie, I’m a big booster for Detroit. Everyone on my Facebook feed knows that. But that doesn’t mean I’m Pollyanna about its problems. If you only see posts from me about the delights of the D that’s disingenuous. The city’s recovery has a long way to go.
All the street lights are working again, suggesting a beacon of brightness to follow. But we MUST fix our schools and redouble our efforts around public safety. Otherwise, we’ve created an urban chic mirage, a pretty picture of reclaimed architectural artifacts behind which sits a broken menacing place. Disturbing and unsafe for all.
Progress in our once proud city is sometimes measured in inches. Last night for the first time in forever I parked my car on the street. This morning I found the inside ransacked and a small amount of cash stolen. Strangely a half consumed styrofoam cup of diet coke I had left in the console was placed on the floor mat undisturbed. Nothing else appears to be missing.
On the plus side, I fared much better than the owner of a white Mercedes parked in front of They Say Bar a block down the street from Atwater Brewery on Friday. That’s maybe a profound understatement. Late in the afternoon a black SUV appeared in broad daylight. A man in the passenger seat got out and pumped 12 shots into the guy in the Mercedes and drove off. Just like that. Police are treating it like a hit of some sort.
Despite the smallness of my car burglary, I decided to report it anyway. Captain Hope of the Detroit Police Force responded to my text in 7 minutes. She is literally a beacon of HOPE in our neighborhood. Conscientious, responsive and tough. She was also on the scene in minutes overseeing the hit, the first murder in our area in over 15 years. Her last name isn’t ironic, it’s inspiring. I mean, for every recent police incident we’ve heard about in Ferguson and across this country over the past year, I’m 100% sure there’s also another dedicated police officer just like Captain Hope out there doing her job and making life better and safer for the rest of us. Let’s face it– it’s way harder being a good cop these days, with greater risks and far fewer rewards.
I’m not going to sugarcoat these episodes and dismiss the unsettling feeling even a petty crime creates. This is the same city where my grandmother was killed 25 years ago, and I still remember the months of pit in the stomach anxiety that lingered. I also remember my grandma dismissing a petty burglary on her front porch just a few months before her murder. When the thief grabbed my grandma’s big rhinestone purse, she insisted the only thing he got was a kielbasa she picked up earlier at Giglio’s Market. But afterward, there was an immediate uproar. Every friend and relative implored her it was time to move. Get out of Detroit for good. She wouldn’t hear of it. I hope I don’t regret not making more of this recent petty crime.
In terms of sheer numbers, crime is way better than those days. Unless and until it happens to you.
People like my grandma and the victim on Friday are not numbers. They are real people. Mourned and buried. In our community meeting a few months back we met over a half dozen neighbors who have similarly lost loved ones being in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time in this city.
I really wish I had a book of access cards to our Career Online High School on the front seat of the car last night. Something tells me the perpetrator needed the $20 in quarters and small bills way more than me. No biggie. But what he really needs is a better pathway than petty crime. Is that still too Pollyanna or can we really make education an answer?
That’s where we must turn our attention in the days ahead. Every person in school or training for a better job is just way too busy for the needless shenanigans I’ve detailed here. Can’t we all agree on that much?