Grosse Pointe is Safe, Low Crime Community, Chiefs Say
Despite the perception by the public, the directors of public safety from all of the Grosse Pointes say major crimes were down in 2011 as compared to 2010. More detailed information will be released as each department completes its annual report.
Word of Jane Bashara's strangulation death has swept through the Pointes and has been the topic of conversation nearly everywhere in the community. She was well known and respected and her death has come as a shock to friends, neighbors and residents throughout the Grosse Pointes.
The perception that crime is on the rise, however, is not accurate, public safety directors said.
Grosse Pointe Park Public Safety Director David Hiller said early Friday that residents should feel safe and understand that crime is not getting worse in the area. The crimes reported for 2010 were the lowest he has ever recorded in his decade as the department's director, he said.
"We have an extremely safe community," Hiller said, noting the downward trend in major crimes, called index crimes, in the Park for the last five to six years.
The directors from the other Grosse Pointes agree.
Grosse Pointe Woods Public Safety Director Andrew Pazuchowski said he's heard a lot of talk about having neighborhood watch groups. Those groups are fine, he said, but the best kind is not one that patrols the neighborhood but one in which residents build a network by being neighborly. His best piece of advice is for residents to be friendly with all of their neighbors and to communicate regularly.
Exchange phone numbers and be aware of your surroundings all the time, Pazuchowski said, "whether you're in Grosse Pointe, Sterling Heights or anywhere for that matter." It is a good idea to tell your neighbors when you'll be on vacation and who they should expect to see coming and going from your home during your absence. That will aid in the detection of something suspicious or askew, he said.
While the directors understand why Bashara's death and the armed robbery at the Mobil station are upsetting, residents should not feel panicked, they said. Similar questions and thoughts arose last year after the Sherwin Williams store on Mack Avenue was robbed at the beginning of 2011, but the crime statistics showed major crimes were down.
Bashara's death is still under investigation. Detectives from both Grosse Pointe Park and the Detroit Police Homicide Unit are working together because she was reported missing from the Park and found in Detroit.
Hiller said early Friday there are not any updates on the case yet but investigators are giving it all of their attention. They interviewed Bashara's husband Thursday, and Hiller said he was cooperative.
Part of what must be considered in the few recent violent crimes in or near the Grosse Pointes is that all crime is cyclical, Pazuchowski said, explaining he can recall chasing after an armed robber on Mack Avenue in the early 1980s. He also recalled an officer's squad car that was riddled with bullets in the mid-1990s during what should have been a routine traffic stop.
Pazuchowski and Hiller said statistics can be misleading.
Part of what must be considered when analyzing numbers and statistics of crimes is that percentage of increase or decrease should not be used in cities such as the Pointes, Hiller said.
As an example, he explained that if there is one armed robbery one year and there are two the next year, the percent of increase is 100 percent, which sounds alarming. But it is not a significant increase when you look at the raw numbers.
Earlier this week City of Grosse Pointe Director of Public Safety Stephen Poloni was the first of the five chiefs to present the annual report to council. The City experienced a decrease in major index crimes, had a higher volume of calls and a slight increase in lesser, more petty type of crimes, he said. Burglaries were the exception in the City, but Poloni said one person was prosecuted for a series of burglaries, which also impacts the numbers.
One point all the directors have emphasized long before Bashara's death is that the residents are their best eyes and ears, meaning that a resident is likely to know more easily if something or someone is out of place in their neighborhood or on their block.
Pazuchowski said this is where the value of being neighborly comes into play. When a neighbor knows you and sees something out of place, they are much more likely to alert you or police, he said, versus the neighbor that comes home, parks the car and runs inside not to be seen again until the next morning when they are leaving for work.
Another important factor is to not feel as if you are bothering police, Pazuchowski said. If you notice a car that is parked and running on your street that you don't recognize and it is there for 20 minutes without anyone getting in or out, call police. Officers can then respond, identify the person in the car, find out what he or she is doing, and try to corroborate their story. This is something that would be likely to prevent a crime, Pazuchowski said.
"Don't feel like you don't want to bother us," Pazuchowski said. "That's what we're here for."