Clergy, community and law enforcement tackle violence

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    godbee and vannApproximately 30 religious leaders joined with Police Chief Ralph Godbee, Barbara McQuade, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, and other community leaders in the community room of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners on May 23 to announce the launch of Detroit Night Walks, a program designed to help prevent crime and stabilize neighborhoods.

    “Too many people in our neighborhoods and in our communities are being preyed upon,” said Pastor James Warfield of Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church. “We want to reverse that trend and pray for and pray with our various neighborhoods.”

    Warfield, who is also a Detroit Police commissioner, said he, Bishop Edgar L. Vann II of Second Ebenezer Church and Minister James Booker have convened a powerful group of clergy to lead in this effort.

    “We have a foundation of more than 30 churches who have answered this clarion call,” Warfield said. “We are following the benchmarking best practice model the nationally renowned Boston TenPoint Coalition strategy, where clergy-led patrols in that city led to a 61.2 percent decline in crime.”

    Warfield added that we have all the power to drive the change that we need in Detroit.

    “There is nothing so wrong with Detroit that collectively all our good cannot fix,” he said.

    Bishop Edgar Vann called Detroit Night Walks a true partnership between clergy, the community and law enforcement.

    “This is the culmination of the process that has taken many months, and we believe that together we can change hearts, change minds and change lives.”

    Vann also said the group isn’t evangelizing, but added that there’s a spiritual component to crime prevention. He asked clergy from around the city to join with them.

    Booker, a retired police officer, executive director of M.A.D.E. Men, and organizer of the Youth Voice Clergy Team of the Harriet Tubman Center, said that churches involved in this program represent 16 different zip codes within the city.

    Booker added that, most importantly, these churches and their congregations represent the face of Detroit and the community.

      Quentin McKinnon, chief of staff of the Youth Voice Executive Board, and a junior at Cody High School, spoke of being held up at a bus stop two years ago.

    “I was startled, I was scared,” he said of the effects of the robbery of his watch, his MP3 player and headphones. “Every day I had to plan ways to go home, switch the different streets and it was a scary experience.”

    Months later, Youth Voice came to his school, and he got involved with efforts to stem violence at the bus stops. He said people were being robbed every day.

    McKinnon asked how many more will be hurt before Ceasefire is implemented.

    “We need Ceasefire,” he said.

    McQuade, who said she was proud to be with youth leaders and clergy leaders who are saying they won’t allow Detroit to be defined by violence, called Youth Voice a wonderful organization.

    “It has brought young people together to empower them to be part of the solution,” she said.

    She noted that Ceasefire came about through the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention. The Department of Justice put together a program to bring together cities that have had challenges with violence, which is how she became involved.

    “Detroit is not alone,” McQuade said. “We certainly have intolerable levels of violence, but we’re not the only city in America with these kinds of challenges. So the Department of Justice and the White House have brought together six cities, including Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, San Jose and Salinas, California, to share ideas about best practices and ways to reduce violence.”

    McQuade said Ceasefire, which has been successful in Boston and Chicago, is one of those great ideas.

    “They have two very different models, and we looked at them, and we adopted the Boston model and are bringing it to Detroit.”

    She called it an intervention and prevention strategy to try to change that culture of violence.

    “One essential piece of it is this Night Walks program,” she said. “It’s a wonderful way for the community to walk together in peace and say ‘we will not tolerate violence in our community.’”

    McQuade said one of the theories behind the Ceasefire model is that in big cities people feel somewhat anonymous and alienated, whereas people in small towns people feel accountable, because everyone knows everyone.

    “Ceasefire tries to directly drill down on individuals to identify the people most responsible for gang violence and violent crimes,” McQuade said.

    She said the collective community won’t tolerate people who victimize others.

    The first phase of training for up to 500 clergy and lay persons took place on Friday at Second Ebenezer Church, followed by prayer rallies on Saturday.

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