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Detroit Crime Commission is helping
By Ryan Fishman
hould you feel safe in Detroit? It's a question
asked for years, if not decades, by Southeast
Michigan's suburban dwellers, and the answer
may finally be changing.
"I think we're heading in a positive direc-
tion," said Andy Arena, executive director of
the relatively new Detroit Crime Commission.
"I feel good about our new Police Chief James
Craig. I know his assistant chief, and they're two of the
brightest people I've ever met in law enforcement.
"The Detroit Police Department is looking at ways to
bring violent crime down and address the city's prob-
lems, and it's different than the approach we've seen in
the past. This isn't 1980's policing. It's innovative, mod-
em law enforcement, and this will take that department
in the right direction and get more people wanting to
move back to the city:"
Arena is no stranger to crime in the Motor City The
former special agent in charge of the FBI's Detroit Divi-
sion retired last year to take a job with the nonprofit
agency that serves as a support system for local law en-
forcement agencies. It began a few years ago when some
local businessmen and attorneys got together to decide
how to help public safety and make Detroit a safer, better
Crime commissions are nothing new New Orleans
has had a crime commission for 60 years and Chicago
for more than a century. The development team behind
the Detroit Crime Commission realized that could be the
way to help, so they set up the agency, reached out to law
enforcement, local and community leaders, and worked
to set the parameters and ground rules for how they
"What these organizations do is help out. In Chi-
cago, they do analysis and research on gang activity. We
decided, in Detroit, we would look at public safety and
quality of life as they go together, and we're exploring the
gap areas that law enforcement and community groups
cannot and are not addressing," Arena said.
The Detroit Crime Commission (DCC) helps with the
investigation of criminal activity, picking up issues Arena
believes might otherwise fall under the radar — things he
says law enforcement would never get to. At the logical
point, they turn their work over to the appropriate agency.
"Today we've turned in excess of 40 investigations over
to the Detroit Police Department, FBI, Secret Service or
Wayne County Prosecutor's Office," Arena said.
Investigations, however, are just one facet of his team's
36 November 2013 I
to improve safer y and security
in the city.
MORE THAN INVESTIGATIONS
The organization handles nuisance abatement claims,
focusing on so-called slumlords that, according to Arena,
own properties but don't take proper care of them:'
Civil nuisance abatement lawsuits are filed against
them, with local law firms providing the pro bono legal
The Detroit Crime Commission is also acting as a fi-
duciary for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy's rape
kit initiative, handling the money and making sure all
bills are paid. Worthy and the DCC will test more than
11,000 rape kits found in a Detroit Police Department
storage facility but never tested, dating back a quarter
"We're getting these old kits tested, and we're finding
serial rapists, but the dilemma is what we do when the
results are in," Arena said. "We're looking at a two-prong
problem — we need money to test the kits, both private
sector funds and public sector grants that will help us in-
vestigate and prosecute. We're also finding the money to
do something with the results, and hopefully we can help
fund the prosecutorial and investigative staffing needs in
Despite the positive indicators, staffing remains a
"I think what Chief Craig is doing is great, but that's
where we come in to help with analyses of crimes to
identify where they need to place resources," Arena said.
Andrew Arena speaks at the"City Under Siege" discussion at Wayne State University.