It has been exactly one year since James Craig returned to his hometown as Detroit’s 42nd police chief. He was hired by Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.
“The city was not the city I had left,” Chief Craig said.
Chief Craig came back to a city facing bankruptcy - a city with soaring crime rates, response times of 58 minutes, police precincts that were not open to citizens after 4 p.m., and uniformed officers who were demoralized and spread thin working 12 hour shifts.
The community had lost total confidence in its police department, but Chief Craig said that didn't deter him.
“I was excited about coming home because I really believe we can make that turn and we have. I’m excited about what we are seeing today,” he said.
Twelve months later, Craig says response times have improved dramatically, crime is down, and police morale is up.
Chief Craig said he had a crime reduction goal of 10% for 2014. Looking at the stats now, he says crime is down roughly 20%. Craig says homicides are down 13%, robbery is down 39%, car-jackings are down 29%, and non-fatal shootings are down 14%.
The Chief credits his department for the improvements in the city. He says response times have dropped to 10 minutes to priority one calls, which is just ahead of the national average of 11 minutes. Craig said they are still pushing to get response times down to five minutes.
Craig said the improvements have changed the citizen's perception of the police department.
“When I’m out in the community, folks in the coffee shop are walking up to me [saying] ‘thank you Chief. We see a difference. We feel safer,’” he said.
Craig said he hopes their efforts help remove the violent stigma Detroit holds.
“We need to drive the message. We need to tell the story. We need to talk about our crime reduction efforts. We need to talk about the community’s perception,” he said.
*You can listen to our full interview with Chief Craig at 3 p.m. on Stateside. We'll post the interview here at 4:30 p.m.
- Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom