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Detroit Police Increase Presence on Streets

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Detroit cops' new shifts may help cut crime

More time on streets could cut city's crime

February 23, 2004

BY NANCY A. YOUSSEF

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

Detroit police officials said getting more cops on the streets might curb the violence and criminal activity that have spiked since the beginning of the year.

Starting today, they're adding 4 hours to the shifts of patrol officers, many of whom have said they're already overburdened. The 12-hour shifts will increase the department's visibility, police leaders said.

"I'm simply trying something new," said Walter Shoulders, the assistant chief for operations, who first proposed the idea of longer shifts on Friday. "This is in the best interests of Detroit."

The change could affect as many as 2,000 officers, said police spokesman Officer Derek Jones.

As of Sunday, police said, there had been 58 homicides in Detroit this year. Just last week, at least four people were fatally shot -- two city police officers, a pizza deliveryman who had just brought pizzas to the officers' precinct and an armored-car driver.

And during a 6-day period in late January, 18 people were killed -- one by a beating, 17 by bullets. Then, during the first 12 hours of February, 12 people were shot. Three died. One was a teen.

Shoulders declined to say how long the new shifts would be in place, but said the change would be short-term. Shoulders said he's hopeful the officers' increased visibility will deter crime and violence.

Patrol officers usually work a 5-day, 40-hour week in one of three shifts: 8 a.m.-4 p.m., 4 p.m.-midnight or midnight-8 a.m. Under the new schedule, officers will work a 5-day, 60-hour week with shifts from either 8 a.m.-8 p.m. or 8 p.m.-8 a.m.

The scheduling change will allow the department to staff more officers between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., Shoulders said.

During the day, officers in some of the department's special units -- such as traffic and aviation -- also will patrol, he said.

"Both of the shifts will be enhanced with greater visibility," Shoulders said. "But the night shift will get the greater enhancement."

Officers will receive overtime for the extra 20 hours they work each week.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick would not say Sunday where the funding for overtime would come from. But, he said, "everything we do in our government is fiscally responsible."

Sgt. David Malhalab of the department's 6th (Plymouth) Precinct said the plan was a "knee-jerk, Band-Aid" reaction to a staffing shortage. Malhalab said some officers already are working 16-hour shifts to alleviate staffing problems.

"All this is going to do is burn out our officers in the summer months," when crime usually picks up, he said.

Shoulders said he understands that concern, but "a vast majority of officers realize the job requires sacrifice. We are here to serve."

Malhalab said he is worried that there will not be enough patrol cars. He said some officers have to wait for cars to return before they can head out. But Shoulders said he is confident there is sufficient equipment.

He acknowledged that the change could not work long-term, in part because of the overtime costs and the fatigue officers could suffer.

That led one officer, who asked not to be named, to ask Sunday: "What are we going to do in the long-term? That's what I'm concerned about."

Contact NANCY A. YOUSSEF at 586-469-4904 or [email protected]

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