Let it Rip: ‘COVID is the primary cause of crime,’ said Chief Craig

With 2020 coming to an end, the city of Detroit is experiencing a rise in crime, which is why Detroit Police Chief James Craig was the first guest on this week’s Let it Rip Weekend. 

To many people, Chief Craig is known as one of the “popular” chiefs in the country, but when asked about his popularity status by FOX 2’s Charlie Langton, Craig had a different opinion. 

“I wouldn’t say that I am the most popular,” Craig said. “Maybe I am one of the oldest police chiefs in the country. So I wouldn’t say popular, just tenure.” 

After that topic, the show made a quick transition to COVID-19, when Craig wished Wayne County Sheriff, Benny Napoleon, well as he continues to fight the virus. Craig encouraged the public to keep Napoleon in their prayers. 

Langton then asked Craig about the Detroit Police Department and how they are coping with the virus. A few months ago, Craig announced that 650 officers were in quarantine. However, that number has drastically decreased. 

“Right now today, we have 60 members of the department who are positive COVID and roughly 78 are quarantined,” Craig said. “Over the last 2 or 3 weeks, it seemed as if it started to level out, so that’s good news.”

As the conversation progressed, Langton asked Craig what role does the department play in making sure restaurants aren’t violating Governor Whitmer’s orders. While Craig explained how police officers aren’t going out looking for violations, he emphasized that one of the department’s top priorities is to support the Michigan’s health department. 

“We’re here to support our health department,” Craig said. “We would go in and provide a warning, then an action could be a citation and there could be an arrest, but we aren’t looking for violators.”

Moving to the final topic with Chief Craig, crime. This year, Detroit has had 32 barricaded gunman situations and crime overall is up - with the city reporting a 17% increase in homicides. 

“COVID is definitely having more of an emotional impact on people,” Craig said. “We’ve had more crime this year than any other time I could remember.”

And Craig went on to say the crime increase isn’t just happening in Detroit. 

“When I look at our friends in New York, they’ve seen a 38% increase, Philadelphia has the 3rd highest number of homicides in 60 years, and Chicago, over 700 homicides have been reported this year,” he said. “I had chats with our chiefs around the county. COVID is primarily the cause of crime, but in addition to that, there’s the early releases, there’s bail reform and there are a lot of other things in place that are driving violence.”

And with that being said, Chief Craig was asked if the decriminalization of marijuana helped reduced crime in the past.  Craig responded by saying marijuana has not helped with decreasing crime in the city.

In the second part of the show, Langton invited 2 medical experts on to talk about restaurants and should they be allowed to reopen this week once the ban is over? 

Those two experts were Dr. Robert Steel from Ypsilanti and Dr. Farhat Bhatti from Lansing. With the ban expecting to end on Tuesday, Dr. Bhatti first explained why he felt it should be extended. 

“I do think it should be extended,” Dr. Bhatti said. “The goal is to slow the spread and decrease the number of patients in hospitals. Already, 93% of hospital beds in Michigan are full. We need to help our frontline workers and conserve bed space.”

However, Dr. Steels has a different perspective and thinks the ban on indoor dining should be lifted. He also challenged Dr. Bhatti’s statistics by saying only 80% of hospital beds are full and of those, only 16% are COVID-19 patients. 

“We have plenty of beds and we have plenty of resources,” Steels said. “People are coming into the hospital and they’re not as sick as they used to be. They’re not dying at the rate as before, because we understand much better how to treat them.”

With that being said, Steels went on to say “people are adults, if they want to go to a social distancing restaurant, they should be able to.”

Bhatti responded by saying the virus is much more dangerous than what people may think. 

“This virus can travel much further than 6ft,” he said, “We used to think this was just a virus with a droplet spread, but now we know it’s airborne and inside restaurants, people are sitting in long periods of time without a mask- that’s risky.”

Next, Charlie asked both doctors if students should be able to play sports again? While Bhatti thinks kids deserve to live normal lives, he doesn’t think it’s safe to play sports during the pandemic. 

“If it’s not safe for kids to be in school for in person learning, then it’s not safe for kids to play sports,” he said. 

However, Steels believes students should not only be able to play sports, but they should also be able to go to school for in person learning. 

“They don’t transmit the virus easily,” Steels said. “They don’t get infected easily and we know keeping students out of school, keeps them behind. Low income students lose much more than all other students. They should just be living their normal life. Everything has a risk and everything has a benefit. 

By the end of the segment, both agreed on one thing - if a vaccine becomes available, they both will take it.