Detroit by District: Making Jefferson corridor clean and safe

In a former bank branch building on Jefferson Avenue, just a stone's throw from Detroit's border with Grosse Pointe Park in the southern portion of new council district four, is the office of the Jefferson East Business Association (JEBA). JEBA recently merged with the East Jefferson Corridor Collaborative to form Jefferson East Inc., a community development organization that services the entire East Jefferson corridor--from downtown to Alter Road, spanning council districts 4 and 5.

In a recent Model D feature, Francis Grunow wrote about pop-up retail that came to the Jefferson-Chalmers area in the heart of JEBA's service area during the annual Jazzin' on Jefferson festival. The pop-up program was the brainchild of Ritchie Harrison, JEBA's economic development and policy director, and several community partners. This type of work, along with amazing neighborhood infrastructure found in the Villages and the blocks fronting canals that connect the community with Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, are great reasons to be excited about the future of Jefferson corridor; however, there is some important work going on behind the scenes that is making East Jefferson a better place to live and do business.

Many of those behind the scenes initiatives are the work of Duncan Eady, Senior Manager of JEBA's (and now Jefferson East Inc.'s) Clean and Safe programs. In recent years, Eady and JEBA have formed relationships with the Detroit Police Department, Wayne State's Center for Urban Studies, local business owners, and residents, which have lead to a comprehensive program for improving public safety along the Jefferson Corridor.

A key aspect of the program is the utilization of off-duty Detroit Police officers patrolling the East Jefferson area through an initiative called the Jefferson East Police Patrol. This became possible when, in May 2010, Detroit City Council approved a Secondary Employment ordinance that was introduced by Council President Pro Tem and retired police officer Gary Brown. This legislation allows the hiring of armed off-duty officers in DPD squad cars and uniforms as additional public safety resources with no additional expense to taxpayers.

JEBA began utilizing the Secondary Employment program in March 2012 with a 30 day pilot of hiring officers for 30 extra patrol hours per week. The program has proven successful, and now JEBA adds 85 patrol hours per week.

One of the benefits of secondary employment is having a voice in where officers patrol. JEBA, utilizing feedback from neighborhood constituents and extensive crime data analysis, can work with police to target crime hotspots.

"All of our safety initiatives are tied into crime analysis," says Eady. JEBA gets detailed crime maps utilizing CompStat from the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University and works with the DPD to deploy Secondary Employment officers to areas of crime intensity. JEBA now has six AmeriCorps employees (two full time, and four temps for the summer) through an expansion of the AmeriCorps Midtown Urban Safety program (AMUS). They assist JEBA, DPD, and the Center for Urban Studies with crime hotspot analysis.

Running a secondary employment program like the Jefferson East Police Patrol isn't cheap. Each officer (plus a vehicle) costs between $25 and $37 per hour (depending upon rank), plus a $2 administrative fee per hour. Nighttime patrols require two officers per car, adding to the program's expense.

To pay for the program, JEBA relies on the support of local businesses and foundations, but they hope businesses and residents will contribute a larger portion of the expenses in the future. "We want businesses to contribute and pay for the service," says Eady, "but it's a lot to ask of them when they already pay so much in taxes."

Questions have been raised about the idea of renting off-duty officers to do police work that many argue the department should be undertaking in the first place, but the use of private security officers is more problematic. Take, for instance, the recent killing of Trayvon Martin by non-deputized neighborhood watch patrolman George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida.

The Secondary Employment program takes several precautions to prevent abuses. Officers become eligible to work in the program through seniority and must have a clean record. Only those who aren't scheduled for a 40 hour work week are eligible.

And, as Eady points out, "This is an opportunity to establish community policing in our neighborhoods. Because of the resource scarcity in the police department, it really is not possible for DPD to do community policing through their normal patrols. They're doing runs and responding to calls during their entire shifts."

An example of community involvement in the program arose during the school year. Students from two schools along the East Jefferson corridor were getting into fights when school let out. One school's administration came to JEBA with the issue, and JEBA was able to route its patrol cars to the site of the fights in the hours immediately after school. The result was a partnership between the Detroit Public Schools, a charter school's administration, the Detroit Police Department, and JEBA, as well as a safer walk home for neighborhood students.

JEBA's goal isn't just putting more cops on its service area's streets. "We're working with residents in buildings where crime is high to build tenant organizations," says Eady. JEBA also works with the Clean Downtown organization to pick up trash along the Jefferson corridor, works with residents to do lot cleanups and board-ups of abandoned homes, and works with businesses to provide matching grants for security improvements.

All of these initiatives are starting to make a difference, says Eady. "We're working towards a goal of permanent crime reduction along East Jefferson."

Matthew Lewis is investigating Detroit's new political districts up to the November General Election.

Read more articles by Matthew Lewis.

Matthew Lewis is a writer and former managing editor of Model D. He's currently the communications officer for the New Economy Initiative.