Detroit imposes business hours at police precincts

Jan 13, 2012, 2:28 AM

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) – Fighting crime is a 24-hour job, but Detroit police stations will be sticking to business hours.

The department is rolling out a plan to close precincts and district headquarters to the public after 4 p.m. It’s an effort to put more officers on patrol, especially in the most besieged neighborhoods, without adding to the city’s $200 million budget deficit.

The policy took effect this week in an especially tough area on the city’s east side. Over the next month, the practice will spread to the six other stations.

At the first precinct to adopt the new system, Michael Morris stopped by to make an accident report. He said he would reserve judgment.

“Let’s see the response time on the street,” Morris said. Then he’ll be able to say if it’s working.

Officers are still inside the building around the clock, but at night public access is limited to a phone in the foyer linked to a 24-hour crime-reporting unit.

Smaller communities have adopted the same approach, but Detroit will be the largest American city to try it. Police Chief Ralph Godbee said the idea would “re-engineer” how the department operates.

Closing precincts to the public by late afternoon is not expected to save money. It just reassigns officers and their duties. Two clerks have typically staffed the midnight shift at each precinct, and a recent survey by the chief’s office showed they take an average of only two reports each night, Godbee said.

Like many police departments, Detroit’s force is under severe financial constraints. The city has about 2,700 officers, down from 4,000 a decade ago. Another 100 officers could be laid off by next month without federal grant money.

There are few areas to make cuts other than jobs, something the police chief and Mayor Dave Bing are loath to do, particularly in light of the city’s violent crime rate, one of the highest in the country, and a spike in murders.

Compounding matters is Detroit’s size: 139 square miles. Although the population has fallen from 1.8 million in 1950 to 700,000 today, officers must still patrol a large area.

“We have done a disservice to our community by spreading ourselves thin, giving citizens the belief that we will respond to things that are not an emergency,” Godbee said. The changes are mainly “for those brave men and women that are overtaxed out there” answering calls for service.

Godbee expects to put 100 to 150 officers more officers on patrol.

Restricted and light-duty officers are being moved to the 24-hour unit that will handle non-emergency calls that might normally have gone to the front desk at neighborhood precincts. That part of Detroit’s policy was gleaned from Milwaukee, which began a similar program in 2008. Milwaukee officers who in the past would have handled complaints in person can now be sent to areas with rising crime.

“If we don’t stay in public spaces, crime goes up and citizens lose heart,” Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said. But his department has not reduced the hours its seven precincts are open to the public.

Some smaller police departments, including in Detroit’s better-off suburbs, already close their front desks during slower evening hours. But Nancy Kolb, a senior program manager with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, has not heard of any city the size of Detroit adopting a similar policy.

A lot of agencies are turning to volunteers to work the front desks and using more social media.

“It’s not always possible for an officer to go to neighborhood watch meetings, but residents can use social media to engage with that officer,” Kolb said.

Bing, who is trying to keep Detroit from being taken over by an emergency financial manager, is cutting 1,000 city jobs in the next few weeks. Services like fixing lights and sidewalks and cutting grass are being reduced. The mayor is also seeking medical and pension concessions from city unions.

Other cities are reluctant to tinker with their police forces, even if doing so might save money.

Officials in Baltimore, which has a deficit of more than $50 million, have not considered cutting hours at their nine police precincts and headquarters, largely because such a step would close doors on community outreach.

“We have a lot of situations where people come into the districts to report crime,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. “It’s a big part of our community policing.”

In New Orleans, eight district offices are open around the clock. Most are staffed overnight by a desk sergeant and two officers.

“You have citizens who will still feel more comfortable reporting crime by coming into the districts,” New Orleans police spokesman Frank Robertson said.

In Detroit, the precincts have often been seen as islands of safety.

“I really don’t know how it’s going to work,” said Ardella Jackson, who also filed an accident report Tuesday at the precinct with shorter hours. “We don’t really like changes.”

Godbee has stressed that the precincts won’t be abandoned at night. And though there will be no access to front desk areas, a limited number of officers will be inside performing other duties. But he prefers people become familiar with the telephone reporting system for non-emergencies such as neighbor complaints, property damage reports and fender benders.

“If the situation calls for me to have an officer come to the station to deal with them,” he said, “I would rather do that than have that officer sitting there like the Maytag repair person.”

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

(Twitter Photo/@katiehobbs)...
SuElen Rivera

Democratic Arizona gubernatorial Hobbs vows to protect women, providers following abortion ruling

Hours after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending almost 50 years of constitutional protections for abortions, Arizona candidate for governor Katie Hobbs vowed to protect women and health care providers if elected in this November's election.
7 hours ago
Associated Press

Religious schools may steer clear of tuition despite ruling

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Religious schools got what they wanted when the Supreme Court allowed them to participate in a state tuition program. But the state attorney general said the ruling will be for naught unless the schools are willing to abide by the same antidiscrimination law as other private schools that participate in the […]
7 hours ago
President Joe Biden signs into law S. 2938, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act gun safety bill, i...
Associated Press

Biden signs landmark gun measure, says ‘lives will be saved’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Saturday signed the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades, a bipartisan compromise that seemed unimaginable until a recent series of mass shootings, including the massacre of 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary school. “Time is of the essence. Lives will be saved,” he said […]
7 hours ago
FILE - This Sept. 20, 2017, file photo shows a sign at the Disney store on the Champs Elysees Avenu...
Associated Press

Abortion ruling thrusts companies into divisive arena

The Supreme Court’s decision to end the nation’s constitutional protections for abortion has catapulted businesses of all types into the most divisive corner of politics. Some companies that stayed silent last month — when a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to Politico — spoke up for the first time Friday, including The […]
7 hours ago
Associated Press

A roof over their head: Churches use tiny homes for homeless

Churches across the U.S. are tackling the big question of how to address homelessness in their communities with a small solution: tiny homes. On vacant plots near their parking lots and steepled sanctuaries, congregations are building everything from fixed and fully contained micro homes to petite, moveable cabins, and several other styles of small-footprint dwellings […]
7 hours ago
In this combo photo, protesters gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 20...
Associated Press

Two months of waiting, and finally a Supreme Court ruling

Follow the links in this story to recent AP coverage about abortion over the last three months. ___ And so the interminable wait after the leak of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade has come to an end — nearly two months in which abortion and all of its complexities have been have been hashed […]
7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
...
Canvas Annuity

The secret to guaranteed retirement income

Annuities aren’t really a secret, but they are so misunderstood that they might as well be. Once you understand what an annuity is and how it can benefit you, you could decide this “secret” is the perfect supplement to your retirement plan.
Detroit imposes business hours at police precincts