Two Detroit Free Press articles about the city caught my eye. The first, “Detroit police chief: we are battling urban terrorism” was especially striking. The second article, “Bicyclist, 55, shot dead in Detroit” is closely related. I’ve heard a little bit about urban terrorism on NPR, but wonder how to distinguish it from otherwise “normal” crime rates and patterns. What is that defining line?
The first article opens with the line, “It was another bloody weekend in Detroit”. It’s a fantastically gripping hook, but my first impression was that it paints Detroit as a consistently dangerous, deadly place. The previous weekend, on 20 June, attackers unleashed fire on a party of 300 people, killing one and wounding 11. Despite this horrific attack, I think the opening line treats Detroit unfairly. It reinforces Detroit’s image as a city where shootings are the status quo, business as usual.
From what I gathered from the article, the shootings’ locations make them acts of urban terrorism. (Logically, large crowds offer greater opportunities to wound or kill more people). While reading the article I felt indignant, fearful and frustrated. I was absolutely floored by the numbers: “Between 6 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. today, there were 10 homicides and 20 non-fatal shootings”. That many shootings in such a short timespan made me confront and question Detroit’s security. I think I tend to be overly optimistic about the city’s safety because I have yet to personally encounter any traumatic incident or major crime. However, this article’s data really shook me. How can we prevent these violent outbursts? Why do they happen at all?
News like that angers and saddens me because it severely injures Detroit’s reputation. Urban terrorists are dragging the city down (in a moral and physical sense) and instilling fear into its community members. However, I think crimes like this one only strengthen our non-profits’ sense of purpose. As DCBRP students, we are proud to band together with Detroiters, contributing to and (hopefully) uplifting the city. Our respective missions quite exactly oppose that of the urban terrorists. While they harm the city by hurting/killing its people and wrecking its already fragile/divisive rep, we are working hard to preserve and strengthen its best qualities. We know we can learn a helluva lot from Detroit(ers) and are striving to contribute to its renewal and continued success.
On another note, I found it especially intriguing that the shooting took place after police left. That sequence of events certainly doesn’t imply causation – just because the shooting happened after police left doesn’t mean the police somehow instigated/inspired it – but it does make me wonder about the general attitude toward cops in Detroit. How do people feel about them?
All the same, I think reacting to this article with fear is the wrong way to go. I can see that fear building a slippery slope. When people hear about attacks like this one, they might feel too intimidated to step outside. They might think block parties are too unsafe, too likely to attract urban terrorists’ attention. When fewer people are outside walking/biking around and hanging out, I think we miss a very crucial chance to build a sense of community. I will strive to put my fear and doubts aside and instead focus on the good in Detroit (and there’s a great deal of it). For me, news pieces like this one reiterate the importance of community-oriented organizations like the ones we all work for.
I was similarly surprised by the second article: this morning (1 July), a 55-year-old bicyclist was shot and killed on Detroit’s west side. Police aren’t sure whether the victim knew his attackers, but the apparent randomness of the violence shocked me. Just like the party shooting, episodes like that perpetuate the idea that Detroit is completely crime-ridden. I think one of the best tactics to combat that idea is to continue to come together to enjoy the city. I am still (and will always be) incredibly proud of Detroit and committed to defending it.
Side-note: (I’m realizing how dramatic that sounds…but I feel very passionate about the place and truly love it). When shootings like that happen it angers me because it hurts the city in so many ways. It reinforces a rather unfair status quo and eats away at Detroiters’ sense of community. After reading these articles, I remain conflicted. Shootings like that definitely rattle me, but I am still determined and glad to explore the city. The DCBRP and our member organizations help me focus on the positive and maintain my hope.