When a 90-year-old woman was raped and brutalized on Detroit’s eastside, neighbors and citizens across Detroit determined that rampant crime crippling communities had to come to an end, and it had to happen sooner than later. That event signaled the rise of an all-volunteer organization to battle crime, protect the innocent and bring perpetrators to justice, dubbed the Detroit 300. The much praised and applauded community patrolling and crime fighting organization, which gets its name from the hit Hollywood film 300, about a fighting force of 300 Spartans who fought valiantly to protect their country, women and children from an invasion of Persian marauders. And much like the lore that surrounds that legendary fighting force, the Detroit 300 — which is actually made up of 4,300 registered volunteers, with about 400 active volunteers —is dedicated to the principles of protection and justice for those they call the “innocents,” women, children and senior citizens.
Detroit 300 president Eric Ford and vice president Imhotep Blue explained that the 5-year-old organization is highly structured and is not limited to male volunteers only. “The Detroit Community Action team is comprised of four tiers which includes an executive board, with a membership director, a resource director, a research director and a communications director. And contrary to what people believe, all of our directors are female,” explained Blue.
Detroit 300 volunteers hail from all walks of life with business persons, law enforcement, ex-law enforcement and clergy working together to make Detroit streets safer, the one caveat, a volunteer can’t have a criminal sexual conduct violation.
One of the factors which makes Detroit 300 such an effective crime fighting arm, is their ability to bridge the gap between residents who are aware of illicit activity, but are reluctant to make direct contact with law enforcement agencies.
“I had a relative who was the victim of violent crime that resulted is his death,” explains one resident whose family was impacted by the murder of a loved one. “I was hesitant to talk directly with police, because I didn’t have hard facts, but I was able to talk with a volunteer of [Detroit] 300, who keep us apprised of developments in the case,” explained one westside resident who chose not to reveal her identity.
The organizations advance team operates in a manner similar to a quasi-military style special operations unit. “The Advance Team deploys any special mission that the president assigns. … The Advance Team does recon and intel. They go out and conduct a threat assessment for any area we’re going to be working in,” says Blue, adding that the team’s primary function is to make sure that any designated operation does not endanger volunteers involved in the security maneuvers. The Advance Team consists of only men, many of which are trained in weapons use and are armed and often work with Wayne County law enforcement to accomplish their objectives. Blue adds that the criteria for weapon possession is more stringent than the State of Michigan requirement. Detroit 300 Advance Team members have demonstrated an optimal level of proper firearm use and safety that they have are frequently lauded as a premier organizational model by the NRA.
“I’ve instituted a program called Operation Safenet in which we patrol designated neighborhoods twice weekly. On Tuesday’s we are on the Westside of the Detroit and on Thursday’s we are on the eastside,” said Ford. “We’ll coordinate with Commander Bettis or another appropriate commander and determine where crime is on the rise. We publicize the locations and hours so that residents will know that between the hours of five and nine, it’s safe to get gas or run errands and make it home to your loved ones safely.”
While the Detroit 300 does not have a formal relationship they admit that the relationship between the two is one of mutual respect and informal support. The community patrolling initiative does however have occasion to work with other crime fighting organizations including Crime Stoppers, ComSource and Banner Network. “We do have a formal arrangement with Detroit One. Which is a violent crime reduction initiative,” adds Blue.
Under Section 764.16 of the Michigan statue a private person may make an arrest in the following situations: (a) felony has been committed in the private person’s presence; (b) if the private person has committed a felony, although not in the presence of the private person; (c) If the private person is summoned by a peace officer to assist the officer in making an arrest, and (d) If the private person is a merchant, an agent of a merchant, an employee of a merchant, or an independent contractor providing security for a merchant of a store and has reasonable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has violated section 356c or 356d of the Michigan penal code, Act No. 328 of the Public Acts of 1931, being sections 750.356c and 750.356d of the Michigan Compiled Laws, in that store, regardless of whether the violation was committed in the presence of the private person.
“Our accomplishments include multiple arrests and the solving of major crimes, and were critically engaged in catching the killer of 3-year-old Aarie Berry, who was murdered in a gangland shooting in July of 2011,” says Ford with satisfaction. “These are the things we’re here to do, protect the innocent and give them some peace of mind that when they venture out they will return home in tact.”