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Detroit campaign: Ring in the New Year with bells, not bullets

Dec 30, 2014

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Ring in the New Year with a bell, not a bang.

That’s the message of a campaign to discourage Detroit’s unofficial tradition of celebratory New Year’s gunfire.

The Reverend Nicholas Hood III has spearheaded the campaign since 1997, when a Detroit woman, Sandra Latham, was killed by a stray gunshot.

There’s no real data on the subject, but Hood says there’s some evidence the campaign has worked.

“What I’m hearing, for the last 16 years, is that the amount of shooting seems to be decreasing,” Hood said. “And nobody has been killed since we started this campaign.”

Daphne Latham agrees that, anecdotally at least, the level of gunfire seems to have decreased in recent years.

Latham was celebrating New Year’s with her mother when Sandra Latham was struck and killed in her kitchen. She says the memory is still painful, but working on this annual campaign helps a lot.

“It helps me get through it,” Latham said. “Without these guys and family, I don’t know how I’d make it.”

Hood says there are plans to expand the “don’t shoot” campaign to another holiday this year—Mother’s Day—and put together an effort akin to a public health campaign.

The effort would involve churches, law enforcement, the social service community, and at-risk youth, to “pull them together in various settings, talk about ways we might be of assistance to them,” Hood said.

Detroit Deputy Mayor and former Police Chief Ike McKinnon came up with the Mother’s Day idea.

“This would be phenomenal if we could do this,” McKinnon said. “We know it’s farfetched, but we can do it, if we can get everybody to buy into this.”