In Detroit, a partnership between law enforcement, church leaders, and community members is working to stop the gunfire between some of the city’s worst gangs.
In one part of the city, Operation Ceasefire has cut shootings by 40%.
The program is designed to target a key group of trigger pullers: gang members responsible for most of the violence in the city.
But this program is about much more than just locking people up.
“You don’t want to live in a city, or do business in a city, or play in a city unless they feel safe,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo.
That’s why, after a rash of murders and gun violence, McQuade teamed up with the mayor and police chief to launch a unique crime prevention partnership called Detroit One.
“There was, about 2 years ago, a gang war that was going on – an exchange of shootings between different gangs. They would post pictures on Instagram of rival gangs, of the targets that should be shot on site,” said McQuade.
To try to end that gang violence, McQuade and the Detroit One partners brought Operation Ceasefire to the city’s east side.
It’s a unique program that has dramatically lowered homicide rates in other cities like Boston and Cincinnati.
Already Ceasefire has changed the landscape in Detroit.
“That 40% reduction in shootings in the 9th Precinct means 82 more people are alive today than were last year,” said McQuade.
Operation Ceasefire is not just about locking up bad guys. It targets specific gang members who are on parole or probation and requires them to report to a “Call In” – a meeting with McQuade, Police Chief James Craig, and Mayor Mike Duggan.
“And we say, the violence has to stop, and if it doesn’t we are committed to prosecuting you,” said McQuade. “But the promise is: if you put down your guns, and stop shooting, we have a lot of services available to you.”
“I’ve seen the young men engage in that program and the difference it makes,” said Operation Ceasefire Community Organizer Quincy Smith.
Smith says once the gang members agree to step away from the criminal lifestyle, his outreach team not only helps them find jobs – they are there for them day and night.
“We provide those wrap around services, where there’s a day to day engagement on the phone: how are you doing today, do you have a way to work, right? You need baby diapers or groceries or whatever the case may be,” said Smith. During our interview with Smith, he was actively fielding phone calls from Operation Ceasefire participants, in the hopes of preventing a retaliation shooting in response to a recent shooting. His efforts paid off.
Smith says at Operation Ceasefire, they teach the young men how to resolve conflict without weapons. And the Ceasefire Call Ins also involve church leaders who hold the gang members accountable, as well as the people who the gun violence has hurt the most.
“That’s usually the most powerful moment of a Call In, where the mother of a murder victim stands up and talks about how the murder of her son has changed her life. And many times the gang members will get up and hug the mother,” said McQuade.
“We want these guys to see that mother that lives down the street, or we want them to see the teacher that they may have grown up with,” said Bishop Daryl Harris from Total Life Christian Ministries. “Because nobody teaches those spiritual kinds of lessons better than church and community.”
McQuade says one of the best parts of the Operation Ceasefire Call Ins is the chance to share a meal with the young men she’s trying to show that there is a different future for them and the city.
“You see her leading by sitting down, having one on one conversations with these young men, and engaging with them, talking about their experiences. Hearing their story, to be able to witness that – someone like U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade -- sitting down and talking to these known street guys,” said Smith.
“They’ll show me a picture of their child on their phone, and their face will light up when they talk about their child, and we’ll talk about – imagine how you’d feel if you’re child got caught in the crossfire of a drive by shooting or playing in the yard of a house, and was hit by a stray bullet. And it absolutely resonates with them,” said McQuade.
Operation Ceasefire is now expanding to the west side of the city. Law enforcement leaders all hope this program will keep changing hearts and minds in the city.