Justifiable homicides in Detroit made up 8 percent of the 310 seen nationwide.
The collapse of Detroit's civic institutions is turning the city into a testbed for an armed society also being a polite society. There probably aren't very many NRA members in Detroit, but it's beginning to live out the reality of what happens when the police can't protect and you have to rely on your own abilities and skills to survive.
Criminals prowling for victims in Detroit are instead finding armed citizens willing to open fire.
A northwest Detroit homeowner on Tuesday fatally shot two men he said were trying to break into his west-side house.
If those shootings are ruled self-defense, they will bring to 10 the number of fatal self-defense shootings in the city since Jan. 1.
Detroit has traditionally had a large percentage of the nation’s justifiable homicides by citizens. In 2012, the last year for which national figures are available, there were 25 justifiable homicides in Detroit, which made up 8 percent of the 310 seen nationwide. Last year, there were 15 justifiable homicides in the city.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig said at a press conference last week that in his 37-year career, he’s never seen as many homeowners defending themselves by shooting intruders. Craig told The News in January he felt the crime rate could be lowered if more “good Americans” were armed, because he said criminals would think twice about attacking.
“It does appear more and more Detroiters are becoming empowered,” Craig said. “More and more Detroiters are getting sick of the violence. I know of no other place where I’ve seen this number of justifiable homicides. It’s interesting that these incidents go across gender lines.”
“People who are faced with a dangerous situation are taking matters into their own hands,” Craig said. “We’re not advocating violence; we’re advocates of not being victims. We’re advocates of self-protection. We want people to be safe.
“This should be a message to those who continue to perpetuate violence on Detroiters that enough is enough. You’ve got to be concerned about good Detroiters who aren’t going to stand for it,” Craig said. “Detroiters are fed up and they are taking action.”
Johnny West, a 63-year-old resident of the city’s east side, is licensed to carry a .40 caliber Glock, and said he’ll use it if need be.
“People have to protect themselves,” West said. “These criminals have no business breaking into people’s houses in the first place. Don’t take what’s not yours, and everything will be OK. If someone’s coming in your house, you don’t have time to call the cops; you’ll end up laying there dead. You got to do what you got to do.”
It takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun.
Craig, who is black, is saying things that are unacceptable to most cops in urban centers who put their priority on controlling the population by taking firearms out of the equation. But Detroit's police force is in no state to do that.
Craig has launched some successful raids on drug dealers and targeted gang members. The force still has enough resources for targeted strikes like that. But like the rest of Detroit, it lacks the capacity for preventative measures or much of a street presence. And in a way this is how it used to be. The modern city with its illusion that the police can be everywhere doesn't actually hold up too well. Craig would like to use armed homeowners to extend the reach of a police force that is otherwise incapable of projecting enough force to provide protection to Detroit residents.
As more cities continue to implode, it's a philosophy that we may be seeing more of.
It may not be Ray Kelly or Bill Bratton, polished NY and LA pros who rely on statistics and social tinkering to lower crimes, but Craig who will be seen as the future of policing.