Detroit combines fire and EMS roles • Pharmacist accused of cough syrup scheme • Lucido and school threats

The shortage of first responders is being felt across the country and Detroit is no different. According to the Detroit Fire Fighters Association, the city is down 200 firefighters and 100 EMS workers.

But there is a plan to address that shortage. The problem, according to the union, is the plan isn't being put into action and it's leading to other issues.

Detroit firefighters and EMS often work hand in hand, so it made sense during the last contract negotiation to combine the roles into a single position.

"All our EMS employees will start to be brought over to the fire department and act in a dual role," said Thomas Gehart, union president.

One advantage for dual responsibilities is more pay - and a shared role."For 12 hours of your 24-hour shift, they will be on an EMS rig and the other 12 on a fire squad or truck," he said.

Fire Commissioner Charles Simms said the process is underway.

"We have classes going on every month," Simms said. "And it will take some time because we don't want to deplete EMS to do this crossover training. For some of the EMS members, it is going to take 8 to 10 weeks to train them."

Meanwhile, the shortage is taking a toll on current firefighters and EMS, limiting their ability to respond efficiently.

"A gunshot wound," Gehart said."They need a surgeon, they don't need us. They need us to get them to the hospital quick and if we don’t have the ambulance coming for transport, us being there trying to keep that person going, its not helping."

Despite the challenges, the union says the current first responders are doing all it can, going on 450 to 500 runs a day.

"The overtime is killing these guys but thank God they are coming in and working because we wouldn’t be able to function if they didn't," Gehart said.

All parties agree they are not far from a solution.

"We are on the same page," Simms said. "Administration and union, we want to get these members crossed over as quickly as possible but we have to do it in a strategic manner."

One strategy is pay them now.

"The money is there," Gehart said.  "It was in the budget for these members to be brought over within the last year. I’m not sure why we can’t put the stamp on it and move forward."

"We’re investigating that right now," Simms said. "We've had different conversations on how we can retain our EMS employees. And I will say, one issue is, that there is a medical shortage across the country."

"They are hiring," who said. "I get it, but (this) wasn’t done right. And you can’t make promises to these guys and gals that are out here doing 20 runs a shift and going home beat down. It’s not right."

About 30 to 40 members are running out of patience and have left for other departments offering more pay.

Detroit losing $20M a year in property taxes

The city of Detroit loses about $20 million a year in property tax revenue through its business tax abatement programs, which are used to attract companies to the city. 

In a blog post, the Citizens Research Council published its study showing that over the last four years, Detroit averages about $31 per resident per year in property tax incentives. It comes out to about 16.8% of the city's average annual property tax revenue.

The study calls into question whether Detroit's waiving of property taxes for businesses that come to the city actually benefits its residents. Examples include Bedrock's $60 million tax abatement for its Hudson site development. 

The programs are popular forms of attracting business to cities with declining populations and high unemployment. The abatements are designed to spur economic growth by making the city more attractive to companies. But according to the study, often times the incentives go to businesses that would have chosen the city even without the perks. 

Macomb County prosecutor targets parents in school threat investigations

On Wednesday, Metro Detroit has registered threats in Taylor, Redford, South Lyon East High School and St. Clair Shores South Lake High School. In Taylor a student posted a gun and says he was going to shoot the head of the principal closing three schools, while in South Lyon a threat was discovered in the bathroom.

And that's after Ferndale High School was closed for back-to-back threats. Macomb County Prosecutor Pete Lucido has a plan to make parents pay for threats by their children. "Talk to your kids and say don't make me pay for something so stupid as this," he said.

Lucido says he's prosecuted 50 school threats this year - a 50 percent increase from last year. Along with having a hotline of 855-565-2729 for reporting threats, the prosecutor also wants parents to pay for the criminal acts of kids.

"Tell your students right now, your children, you have an obligation to go ahead and take care of your kids. But you also have an obligation for those acts that have consequences of paying back the cities, the townships, and the villages for all of this excess, that other parents shouldn't be paying."

Livonia pharmacist charged with running cough-syrup scheme

A Livonia pharmacist accused of running a multi-million dollar cough syrup scheme is facing charges a year and a half after his Dearborn home was raided. Zaman Alshafey, 35, was charged with 20 felonies, including wire fraud, money laundering, and illegally dispensing prescription cough syrup worth millions of dollars.

According to federal authorities, he was illegally selling promethazine, a prescription cough syrup, the key ingredient in a cocktail known as"purple drank" or "sizzurp."

Authorities allege that Alshafey ran the operation out of Medpro Pharmacy on Middlebelt Road in Livonia for more than three years. He allegedly would buy large quantities of the cough syrup to sell to street drug dealers out of the back of the business.

This included buying more than 7,000 pint-sized bottles of promethazine from various out-of-state drug companies, authorities say. It netted him millions of dollars, and police say he had so much cash that they found it hidden in the walls of his house during the May 2021 raid.  Alshafey faces up to 20 years in prison. 

Pharmacist charged with running large-scale cough syrup scheme out of Livonia pharmacy

A pharmacist accused of running a cough syrup scheme out of Medpro in Livonia is charged with 20 felonies.

Fight between sisters leads to road rage, false shooting report in Warren

A fight between sisters escalated to a road rage incident and police pursuit Wednesday in Warren. According to police, a driver called 911 just before 1:55 p.m. and said she was being chased by a woman in a Jeep. The caller reported that the woman in the Jeep had shot at her in the area of Schoenherr and 10 Mile roads.

Police saw the Jaguar in the area of Toepfer and Schoenherr and tried to stop it, but the driver fled. She eventually stopped in the area of Bringard and Schoenherr in Detroit and was arrested. As she was being arrested, police said the woman in the Jeep arrived and began assaulting the Jaguar driver and police. The Jeep driver was eventually arrested, too.

Police initially said that shots were fired, but a preliminary investigation revealed that there were no shots fired, and independent witnesses reported that the driver of the Jaguar had thrown an object at the Jeep during the road rage incident. The driver of the Jeep sustained a minor injury during the incident. 

The suspects are sisters. Police said one of the women is a 30-year-old from Woodhaven and the other is a 36-year-old from Warren.

Fight between sisters leads to road rage, false shooting report in Warren

A fight between sisters escalated to a road rage incident and police pursuit Wednesday in Warren.

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Daily Forecast

Cold temperatures with a chance of snow is what's greeting commuters this Thursday morning. 

What else we're watching

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  4. The North American Car Truck and Utility Vehicle of the year finalists are going to be announced this morning during the Los Angeles Auto Show. Plan on the nominees being named around 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.
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Starbucks Red Cup Day 2022: How to get a free reusable cup

Starbucks is ringing in the holiday season with its annual Red Cup Day.

On Thursday, Nov. 17, the coffee giant is giving away free, limited-edition reusable red cups to customers who order a handcrafted holiday or fall beverage at participating U.S. stores. Earlier this month, Starbucks’ seasonal red cups and holiday beverages returned to stores.

The red cup giveaway is available however a customer orders, including orders placed on the Starbucks mobile app and Starbucks Delivery, the company said. This year’s red cup is made with 50% recycled material.

Learn more here.