Wayne State forum to explore crime crisis in Detroit

By Steve Thorpe

Legal News

What can Detroit do to deal with crime and the perception that it's an unsafe place to live, work or go to school?

Wayne State University's Forum on Contemporary Issues in Society (FOCIS) is hosting "City Under Siege: The Crime Crisis in Detroit" on Sept. 20-21. The forum is based on the premise that, to solve its many other problems, the city must first get a handle on crime.

In the spring of this year FOCIS launched CitizenDetroit, an economic budget exercise intended to help citizens understand the financial challenges the city faces. In the course of that program, participants were repeatedly asked to rank issues by importance. Time and again, public safety came out on top. That result was the impetus for a forum on the city's crime problems.

"We created a program called 'CitizenDetroit,' where we had a series of forums where people would come together, we would give them some basic information and they would simulate the government process," says Dr. Irvin D. Reid, the director of FOCIS and who is leading the series of forums. "They would have a budget and one table would be the mayor's office, one would be the city council, etc., and they would have to allocate resources. One thing that emerged over and over was that their number one concern was always public safety."

That laser-like focus on public safety made the organizers realize that a forum dealing with that issue would be useful.

"That was the genesis of the idea," says Reid.

Those same citizens who provided the feedback that created the forum would be the ideal audience for the event.

"The audience we want is a general cross section of the community," Reid says. "We don't want just a room full of professionals listening to a stage full of professionals."

FOCIS was founded in 2007 and was intended to stimulate discussion on the issues facing the city, state and region. It also occasionally delves into issues of international interest. A part of Wayne State University, its stated mission is to focus the university's problem-solving resources on tough problems. Some of the topics covered in its five years include Sustainability, Globalization, Health Disparities, Children and Families, African Democracy, the Redefinition of Retirement, and Children and Families.

Chosen by the school's board of governors in a unanimous vote, Reid became Wayne State University's first African American president in 1997 and led the school for a decade before retiring in 2007. After leaving that post, he became the inaugural holder of the Eugene Applebaum Chair in Community Engagement and director of FOCIS.

The forum will include academics, law enforcement leaders and members of the media. Some of the speakers and panelists include: William J. Bratton, former Los Angeles police chief, and former top officer in New York and Boston; Kym Worthy, Wayne County prosecutor; Barbara McQuade, U.S. attorney, Eastern District of Michigan; Ralph Godbee, chief of the Detroit Police Department; Kirk Lewis, chief of staff of the City of Detroit; George Kelling, Sr., Fellow of the Manhattan Institute and expert on community policing; and Isaiah McKinnon, former chief of the Detroit Police Department.

Members of the media participating in the forum include Stephen Henderson, Editorial Page editor of the Detroit Free Press; Angelo Henderson of RadioOne; and Jack Lessenberry of Metro Times.

"The reason we included the media is that we don't want to do pre-conceived notions," Reid says. "We want to explore these things and then hear from the public, from the press and from public officials."

Topics will include:

* The "Broken Windows" Approach to Community Policing.

* The Role of the Media in Reporting Crime.

* Alternative Approaches to Crime Prevention.

* Ending the Siege.

Visitor parking for the program will be available for $6 in Parking Structure 1 on Palmer Street, just west of Cass Avenue. The Community Arts Auditorium, where the event will be held, is in the Community Arts Center on Wayne State's main campus at 450 Reuther Mall.

For a complete schedule and additional information, go to http://focis.wayne.edu/cityundersiege/.

Published: Thu, Sep 13, 2012

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