'Not just doing more arrests'; Detroit rolls out new crime prevention plan to reduce gun violence

United States Attorney Dawn Ison said the objective was simple: "We want people to stop using guns."

"Stop using guns to solve conflict. Stop using guns period," she said. "That's it."

That's easier said than done, though based on the more than dozens of figures at every level of government and law enforcement gathered in Detroit Wednesday morning, those in attendance were already aware of the challenge. 

One Detroit Partnership, a collaboration between federal prosecutors, local law enforcement, city officials, community advocates, and crime prevention experts, was announced at the attorney's office. 

Those groups have already worked together in previous years. However, after a violent weekend in Greektown in downtown Detroit, officials are beefing up the program with a three-pronged appraoch.

Along with crime enforcement, Ison said there would be a new emphasis on preventing crime before it happens, and giving those exiting prison assistance in reentering society.

"At its core, it is about partnership. Between community, law enforcement, and government," she said, adding the work will require a "balance of prevention and outreach."

Ison cited previous partnerships in other cities that led to drastic reductions in non-fatal shootings. Pontiac saw a 70% reduction, Flint saw a 42% reduction, and Saginaw reported a 57% reduction. There was also a drop in homicide rates in those cities.

But Detroit is a different beast, officials said. The city is larger and its demographics are more unique, which will require a customized approach best-suited for the city.

Among the factors that will be considered is the climbing rate of youths involved in gun crimes and arrests.

"We've reported it at nauseam, but there's upticks in violent crime in youth," said Detroit Police Chief James White. "There's been a significant uptick with youth engaging in violent activity."

White said 18 minors have fallen victim to or accidentally shot themselves recently. 

Wayne County Proescutor Kym Worthy has seen a similar trend in the cases coming through her office. At the press conference, she said since 2016, 54 children have been injured or killed "because a lawful gun owner did not safely store their weapon."

There have been legislative fixes that mandate locking up a firearm in a home where a kid lives or will be. The Michigan governor signed two bills aimed at background checks and safe storage laws last week. 

A third bill dealing with extreme risk protection orders looks likely to be signed into law soon as well.

A violent weekend in Detroit:

Among polices not being considered is one that was floated by a city council member to create gun-free zones in Detroit.

Mayor Mike Duggan said state law prohibits restricting where lawful gun owners can bring their guns. However, that doesn't mean the city can't use security measures to keep illegal guns away, Duggan said.

"This weekend saw law enforcement at its best," Duggan said, citing the arrests made in the six shooting cases downtown. "There was a time that that would have been celebrated as excellent law enforcement work. Nobody up here is celebrating."

"It doesn't help the victims that law enforcement is working afterwards. We have more individuals carrying illegal weapons, more young people in this country than we've ever seen. And here's the truth. The point at which somebody sticks an illegal weapon under their belt and heads out of the house, we've lost."

One program coming in is an educational curriculum that teaches 5th graders about the criminal justice system. 

There will also be community groups ready to pick up the phone when someone who needs help with job or mental health issues or drug addictions seeks assistance.