12/31/2013

Detroit leaders call for a bullet-free start to 2014

"This is an opportunity to change this whole ridiculous business of celebratory gunfire," Detroit Police Chief James Craig said.

By Marlon A. Walker
Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — Pastor Nicholas Hood III is urging a moratorium on violence throughout 2014.

Hood, who was at the lectern Monday morning in a community room at his Plymouth United Church of Christ on East Warren to announce the annual "Ring the New Year in with a Bell, Not a Bang" campaign, echoed the remarks of Ike McKinnon, former Detroit police chief and soon-to-be deputy mayor, who asked for a violence-free year at the start of 1997 as well.

It didn't happen then.

"We have new life coming to the city," Hood said of the change in leadership and increasing economic development. "It could all be ended" through continued violence.

Detroit Police officials said it is hard to provide statistics on incidents related to celebratory gunfire in the city on New Year's Day, but suggest the number of incidents is down compared with previous years.

"This is an opportunity to change this whole ridiculous business of celebratory gunfire," Detroit Police Chief James Craig said Monday.

The "Ring the New Year in with a Bell, Not a Bang" started after the death of Sandra Latham, who was killed by stray gunfire. She had chosen to stay home with family to avoid the celebratory gunfire, and ended up becoming the city's first homicide victim of 1996.

"This has gone on too long," McKinnon said during the kickoff event. "When I joined the police department back in 1965, people used to celebrate this idea of shooting guns at night. About 10 to 12, they would tell the police officers to leave the street because it was dangerous.

"If it was dangerous for the police to be on the street, what was it for ... the rest of the city?"

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, who participated in the event's first year as assistant chief of the Detroit Police Department and has been part of it since, said he has seen significant reduction in gunfire on New Year's Eve, and attributes it to Hood's initiative.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, who was sheriff when the initiative began, said it's common sense to continue trying to get people to stop shooting off their guns to ring in the new year.

"You can't argue with gravity," he said. The bullet "has to come down somewhere."

This year, Hood announced partnerships with a local indoor gun range offering to let people test their guns on-site for free.

"I've seen" bullets "go where I had no idea they could," said Al Allen, owner of the Double Action Indoor Shooting Center and Gun Shop, an indoor range and gun shop in Madison Heights. "Electric conduit, lights, ceiling tiles and panel. You name it, we've seen it."

Copyright 2013 the Detroit Free Press


McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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