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Postcard from Detroit: Private Security Patrols

In this week's print edition of TIME, I write about one of the most striking things I noticed after arriving in Detroit two months ago: neighborhood private security patrols. In recent years, Detroit's financial crisis has forced the city to cut its police force by 25%, to roughly 3,000 officers. So the force is understandably overwhelmed dealing with escalating violent crime across a large territory. Rather than fleeing the city, residents of some relatively upscale neighborhoods have hired private security patrols.

The practice raises a bunch of questions, but mainly: What are the fundamental services we should expect our taxes to provide – especially given the country's financial crisis? And, what about the folks who can't afford to live in neighborhoods with private security?

Click here to read the full story.

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  • 1

    Growing up on the far east side in the 80's, I distincly remember my dad patrolling the neighborhood as part of our street's neighborhood watch program. Apart from the fact that a private firm is paid to do the work, how is Dusing's patrol any different?

    Moreover, a friend of mine asked the question, how is private security any different than the doorman at some Chicago highrise? Both keep an active eye at the street level. Both work hard to keep the riff-raff out. Both are well known within their respective communities.

    One last thing, a positive point that the articles fails to mention is how integral Dusing (and TJ especially) is with the neighborhood. Not only are they in constant contact with the neighborhood association, but they also have an ongoing, active discussion with the DPD about crime specifics in the area. The Dusing patrollers log many, many hours in the neighborhood, both on duty and off duty, and are considered friends to many of us Villagers.

  • 2

    When I was growing up in northwest Detroit in the 60's and 70's, we had block clubs. It was a social thing, but also for safety. People talked about what was happening in the neighborhood, and it was an unofficial "watch" group. They knew that if you knew your neighbors, their schedule, and watched what was happening, it made it harder for unusual circumstances to occur.

    In today's world, sadly, few of us have these. I'm friends with some neighbors, but don't know them all.

    Also, watching out for your safety, whether a security detail or block club, isn't just a Detroit thing. My 70-something Mom belongs to a neighborhood watch program in Clinton Township, and goes out on drives with another resident when she's scheduled to do so. Again, it's a social thing but also a way to stay on top of their neighborhood, which is still a safe one.

    Police groups in all the cities, Detroit and the suburbs, are urging their residents to become part of neighborhood watches. Not sure if it's paranoia or forward thinking. For people not affected by the loss of their homes, who plan to stay where they are, keeping your home and neighborhood safe helps in the long run.

  • 3

    Hmmm.... Why any fuss at all about persons 'stepping up to the plate' when Government has failed to provide the most basic service of all - Public safety?

    Detroit used to have a police department with 8,000 members. Would that be too many today given the current resident population of about 1/2 of what it formally was - or would an increase to or near that number serve to enable those who would be urbanites or urban pioneers to feel secure in their choice to be here?

    Many 'lessons learned' to compare against - New York City in the 1970's and 1980's when people were afraid to be out after dark - and now when after a decade-long emphasis upon increased policing and public safety the city has renewed its 'bloom' - and increased its population by hundreds of thousands!

    Big choices here - and big opportunities... and if the City cannot/will not meet the need and challenge, then individuals will and must...

    Bob Tichacek

    • 3.1

      I think most here would (correctly) surmise that Detroit would never enjoy the degree of federal government support, regardless of the party in power, that New York City has over the years, from their loan guarantees granted in the early 1970s when New York was on the verge of receivership to massive dumpings of funding, post-World Trade Center attacks, in the name of security.

  • 4

    I much prefer seeing a private patrol in a neighborhood than have a gated community take its place. The gated communities all over the US merely reinforce the broad community killing, anti-social exclusivity that economic disparity generates.

  • 5

    [...] We've discussed the residents of neighborhoods like Indian Village and Palmer Woods, who hire private security patrols and the residents of Puritan Street, who are working to clean their blocks. But the driven [...]

  • 6

    Graphic Design

    Postcard from Detroit: Private Security Patrols - The Detroit Blog -

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