Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Study shows minorities pay higher insurance premiums

Lloyd's of London - Photo by Charis Tsevis
A recent study has shown that consumers in predominantly minority neighborhoods pay as much as 30% more for auto insurance as do others in similar accident costs. This study was published by ProPublica, an independent, investigative journalism outlet that has won multiple Pulitzer Prizes.

In conducting their research, ProPublcia looked at premium and claim payouts in California, Illinois, Texas, and Missouri. They identified insurance claims in different areas.

Once they identified predominately white neighborhoods that had ones that had the same level of insurance claims as predominately black or Latino neighborhoods, they compared the premiums that consumers in those neighborhoods were charged. In each instance, the predominately white neighborhoods paid less for auto insurance than their minority counterparts with the same claims history.

The full text of this report on the auto insurance industry is available here. The methodology and source of information behind this study are explained in more detail here.

The Insurance Information Institue, a trade group for the insurance industry, disputes the findings from ProPublica in an op-ed available here. The insurance industry argues that ProPublica did not use the correct information in their analysis. This is true.

Of course, it's also true that the data that the insurance industry says that should be used for an analysis like this is not publicly available. ProPublica used the closest proximity to the ideal information from that data is available.

This brings me to two important conclusions.

  1. More information ought to be available publicly. It's impossible for any discussion or debate to happen when only one party in the conversation has reliable data. As it currently is, with only the insurance industry have detailed data, it creates an environment that is ripe for abuse.
  2. There needs to be more review done on an independent basis. The fact that a difference in prices paid among predominately white and predominately minority neighborhoods is this consistent across states and insurance carriers clearly demonstrates in my mind that something is amiss and someone needs to look into independently.

People have argued that auto insurance premiums had a racial component to them for years. This adds at least a little bit of additional credibility to those arguments.


Thursday, April 06, 2017

1 dead, 2 injured after shooting on Ashton


The Detroit Police Department is investigating a shooting that happened late Wednesday night on Ashton Ave. in the Warrendale neighborhood. One victim was killed in what police describe as an apparent carjacking. Two other victims were injured and transported to a nearby hospital.

This shooting happened on Ashton, between Whitlock and W. Warren Ave.

According to a report from WDIV-TV, the three victims were in a silver car when two gunmen approached their vehicle. Words were reportedly exchanged and then the gunmen opened fire of the occupants of that car.

Officers from the Detroit Police Department have interviewed the surviving victims as well as neighbors in the area. They are also seeking surveillance video from a nearby home.

Anyone with information this shooting is asked to call Crime Stoppers of Michigan at 800-SPEAK-UP. Callers can remain completely anonymous. A cash reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest in this case.

Gabe Leland kicks off re-election campaign

Leland kicks off re-election - Photo by Frank Nemecek
Earlier this evening, Gabe Leland, who represents the Warrendale and surrounding neighborhoods on the Detroit City Council, kicked off his re-election campaign. If re-elected, this will be his second term representing District 7 on the Council.

A large group of residents and business owners were on hand to lend their support.

Leland has kept the neighborhoods at the forefront during his first time on the Detroit City Council. He pledged to continue doing that if re-elected.

I supported Gabe Leland in his previous 2013 campaign. I've been proud of his work over the past four years. It is my pleasure to endorse and support his re-election efforts this year.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Running and biking event coming to Rouge Park

Tour de Troit will present a duathlon, which features cycling and running portions of the event, in Detroit's Rouge Park. This event, billed as the Rouge-A-thlon, will begin at 9 am with a 5K run. It will be followed by a 10K bike ride and then followed by a second 5K run. The entire event will be chip-timed, to the finish line.

This will be a total of 20 kilometers around the largest park in Detroit, with stunning paved pathways and winding roads.

This inaugural race will be limited to 250 participants. There are 50 slots available for VIP registration which will include priority placement in the transition station, a premium t-shirt, and a TDT branded running towel. The VIP option may be selected at checkout during the online registration process.

This event is not sweeper supported, which is important for the cycling portion of this race. Participants are encouraged to bring their own bicycle tools, tubes, pump, and other equipment. Registration will include the duathlon, a beer, Amicci's Pizza baked on site, and a finisher medal. Proceeds from this event go towards Friends of Rouge Park.

This race is a partnership between Tour de Troit, the Kidney Foundation and the Friends of Rouge Park. More details and on-line registration are available here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Fatal Music - Review

The twists and turns in Peter Morfoot’s “Fatal Music” make this crime novel an enjoyable read. The book is the latest in a series following Homicide Captain Paul Darac of the Brigade Criminelle as he uncovers clues to catch a killer.

At first, this at-home death of an elderly woman looks as cut and dry as a heart attack in a hot tub but deeper exploration from Darac (and brilliant intuition) prove there is more to this investigation than meets the eye. Set in France, the author wastes no time in setting the tone for a compelling story that not only heightens your imagination but also provides a smooth soundtrack along with it.

Forget the basics in this soundtrack though, Morfoot gives us an advanced lesson in some of the greats of Jazz. Being sure to mention names like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Thelonious Monk, Morfoot exposes readers to the tone of his novel through the music Darac is mesmerized by. Whether playing a club, listening to it, or admiring it, Jazz is clearly Darac’s first and longest love.

Aptly named “Fatal Music” for the obvious ode to Jazz, the arts do not stop there. Morfoot ties in the high-profile world of France’s art scene where Darac finds himself in the quarters of famed art collectors and curators piecing together how a famous painting could have anything to do with the murder of his jazz queen. From the seedy streets and Jazz clubs of the Babazouk to the cultured world of art lovers this investigation has Darac (and his team) scrambling to find answers and as each clue is revealed, more action unfolds.

Suspense, drama, and action make each page turn quicker than the last and your heart strings to pull more than the strings on Darac’s guitar. With so many opportunities for motive, means and just plain hatred, figuring out who is the culprit will leave readers blown away by jazz and crime.

Publisher's note: This review of "Fatal Music was written by Shalen Franchini. It is the first in a series of book reviews that will appear on this blog in the coming weeks.

"Fatal Music" by Peter Morfoot went on sale today from Titan Books.

Rouge Park clean up this Saturday

Spring cleaning - Photo by Oliver Gruener
The public is invited to join students from Wayne State University and the Friends of Rouge Park in a cleanup for Rouge Park this Saturday. April 8. This cleanup effort will focus on the barn that is used by the Buffalo Soldiers in Rouge Park as well as the area along Joy Road.

Those who are interested in helping are asked to meet at the barn at 10 am. The Buffalo Soldiers barn is located at 21800 Joy Rd. at Lahser Rd. in Rouge Park.

In addition to this cleanup effort, the Friends of Rouge Park will also host Rouge Park Appreciation Day, which is another large cleanup and improvement effort in the park. That event will happen on Saturday, May 20.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Help for sexual assault victims

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month - a national campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.

It's about time - Photo by Leticia Bertin/Flickr
Each year during the month of April, state, territory, tribal and community-based organizations, rape crisis centers, government agencies, businesses, campuses and individuals plan events and activities to highlight sexual violence as a public health, human rights, and social justice issue and reinforce the need for prevention efforts.

To kick this campaign off locally, Ricardo Moore, who represents the Warrendale and surrounding neighborhoods on the Detroit Police Commission, sent along a list of resources for victims of sexual assault.

Resources for sexual assault victims include:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH)
800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233)
800-787-3224 (TTY)
www.ndvh.org

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673)
www.rainn.org

National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline Number - Just for teens. You can talk one-on-one with a trained advocate 24/7 who can offer support and connect you to resources.
866-331-9474
866-331-8453 (TTY)
www.loveisrespect.org

This list is presented as this blog's Tip of the Week - a semi-regular feature to highlight ways to make life better for readers or for the community as a whole.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Police chase ends tragically in Detroit

Michigan State Police investigate a crash on Ashton
Photo by Frank Nemecek
What appears to have been a chase involving the Michigan State Police in the Warrendale neighborhood of Detroit has ended badly this evening. A white Chrysler 300 sedan hit two parked vehicles and crashed into a tree on Ashton, just north of Paul, at approximately 6:30 this evening.

Police officers on the scene declined to comment due to their on-going investigation. However, neighbors in the area reported that two individuals in a car being chased died in this crash.

Michigan State Police have Ashton, between Whitlock and Paul Streets, closed for their investigation. State troopers have canvassed the block asking residents about they might have seen and if they have any camera footage that might show details of the chase.

More news as this story develops.

Police cars block off Paul St at the Southfield Fwy.
Photo by Frank Nemecek
Update @ 9:14 p.m.
According to neighbors, it would appear that the Michigan State Police broke off their pursuit as soon as it headed into a residential neighborhood. The individuals that they were chasing, however, continued to flee and subsequently hit two other vehicles before slamming into a tree.

More news as this story develops.

Update @ 10:21 p.m.
This pursuit reportedly started on the Southfield Freeway when Michigan state troopers noticed that the driver was not wearing a seat belt and had tinted windows. They attempted to pull the driver over to issue a citation.

Unfortunately, the driver attempted to flee rather than pull over.

More news at this story develops.

Update @ 10:32 p.m.
The Detroit Fire Department is currently at the scene. They are cutting the mangled sedan open so the remains of the driver and passenger can be removed from this vehicle.

Update @ 10:39 p.m.
According to a neighbor who lives near the crash site, the impact was severe enough that the engine block of that car dislodged from the vehicle. It then continued traveling for a few more feet before landing on the ground.

Any additional updates will have to wait until tomorrow morning.

Update - Saturday, April 1 @ 10:59 a.m.
The crash site as of this morning - Photo by Frank Nemecek
The wreckage from this crash is largely cleared at this point. The yellow police tape has been removed. Ashton is once again open to vehicular traffic and residents are going about their daily routines.

The tree that the fleeing vehicle slammed into, however, still stands with obvious damage to its trunk - a reminder of the spot where two foolish individuals lost their life.

Debris is still littered along the road and sidewalks. I found pieces of the destroyed Chrysler 300 sedan as far as 60 feet from the crash site.

I suspect that residents who live near this spot will continue to find small pieces of that car for days or weeks to come.

Debris from the crash - Photo by Frank Nemecek
All of this will be a lingering reminder of why it's a terrible idea to flee from the police, especially over something as minor as a traffic ticket. The driver probably had some other reason for wanting to run - a warrant for his arrest, a suspended license, or some other reason that probably made sense to him at that moment.

The tragic reality, though, is that none of those things are worth losing one's life over nor are they worth jeoparding the lives of others for.

This, I'm afraid, is a lesson that the ill-fated driver learned too late.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Vietnam Veterans Day

Vietnam Veterans Memorial/ Washington, DC
Photo by Jim Bowen/Flickr
The Vietnam War ended 44 years ago today, with the last American troops leaving by helicopter. President Richard M. Nixon later declared that March 29 was to be known as Vietnam Veterans Day.

President Barack Obama issued a similar proclamation in 2012 on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War starting.

Along the way, 45 of the 50 states as well as Peurto Rico have passed similar resolutions to establish a Vietnam Veterans Day as a way of welcoming home those who were scorned decades ago. Michigan, unfortunately, is one of the few states that have not adopted such recognition.

I want to take a moment to welcome home all of the Vietnam Veterans. Thank you for your service.

And for any of the elected officials who read my blog from time to time, we really ought to talk about the fact that Michigan is one of only five states in the Union that doesn't formally recognize Vietnam Veterans Day as a holiday.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Iveagh Gardens in Dublin, Ireland - Photo by William Murphy
I want to take a moment to wish a Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone in Warrendale neighborhood and beyond. This is one of those instances when everyone is at least a little bit Irish, even if there isn't a drop of green blood in your veins those other 364 days of the year.

There are almost a dozen different bars in Warrendale neighborhood; almost all of them are doing something special for St. Patrick's Day. Whatever you do, I hope your holiday is a full-filled and safe one.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Two Detroit police officers shot in the line of duty

Raymond Durham
Two Detroit police officers were shot this evening in Southwest Detroit. They have been taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital for treatment. However, their names and current condition are not known at this moment.

The Detroit Police Department and Michigan State Police have an active manhunt underway. The shooter has been identified as Raymond Durham, a 60-year old man with a history of breaking and entering convictions.

Additional information about this shooting is available from WXYZ-TV here.

Coming soon: book reviews

Sample books from Titan - Photo by Frank Nemecek
The folks at Titan Books recently sent me a series of books to review. They sent me a series of five crime and espionage novels in this shipment. As a result, I'm pleased to announce that there will be a series of book reviews coming to the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog, starting early next month.

The first book that I will review will be Fatal Music by Peter Morfoot. In this mystery novel, Captain Paul Darac of the Brigade Criminelle is called to investigate an elderly woman found dead in her hot tub. At first, is assumed that she died of natural causes. However, as he digs deeper, Darac discovers a motive for murder with no shortage of suspects.

Fatal Music is a follow-up novel to Morfoot's debut novel Impure Blood. The Crime Review called that previous novel "a vibrant, satisfying read." Library Journal declared in its review, "Morfoot introduces a delightful example of the disenchanted French boulevardier."

Fatal Music will go on sale Tuesday, April 4, 2017. I expect to have my review on-line the day before.

Pocket park moves toward goal


Plans to create a pocket park on Auburn Street in the Warrendale neighborhood of Detroit are moving forward. The dynamic duo behind this plan was featured on Fox 2 Detroit with Taryn Asher last week.

Their GoFundMe page also continues to move towards its $10,000 goal. They are currently a little more than 20% of the way to their target.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Fake cops shoot Warrendale resident


Three individuals who were dressed as police officers, but weren't really affiliated with law enforcement, broke into a home on Mettatal Street in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood early this morning. A 35-year-old man who lived in that home was shot during the robbery.

The victim was originally listed in critical condition. However, updates indicate that he is expected to make a complete recovery.

According to investigators within the Detroit Police Department, this was not a random event. Detectives believe that this individual was targeted as a result of dispute that happened earlier in the week.

The mother and young child who were in this Detroit home at the time were not physically harmed. Obviously, they are emotionally shaken by this event.


Monday, March 06, 2017

Pocket park project coming to Warrendale

Area targeted for a pocket park - Photo by Barb Matney
Barb and Joe Matney, the dynamic duo behind the In Memory Of community garden here in the Warrendale neighborhood and key members of the Warrendale Community Organization, have launched a new project. They are working to create a new pocket park in our area.

The project will take vacant land in Warrendale and allow it to be used for recreation. They are trying to raise $10,000 through a GoFundMe campaign.

 Additional information about this project is available here.

Tip of the week: Nine common filing errors to avoid

It's tax season and the Internal Revenue Service has release their list of the nine most common errors in tax returns. It's my pleasure to share this with my readers as part of this blog's semi-regular Tip of the Week feature.

Without further ado, here are nine common errors to avoid when preparing a tax return:

1. Missing or inaccurate Social Security numbers. Be sure to enter each Social Security numbers on a tax return exactly as printed on the Social Security card.

2. Misspelled names. Spell all names listed on a tax return exactly as listed on that individual’s Social Security card.

3. Filing status errors.  Some people claim the wrong filing status, such as Head of Household instead of Single. The Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov can help taxpayers choose the correct status. E-file software also helps prevent mistakes.

4. Math mistakes.  Math errors are common. They range from simple addition and subtraction to more complex items. Transactions like figuring the taxable portion of a pension, IRA distribution or Social Security benefits are more difficult and result in more errors. Taxpayers should always double check their math. Better yet, tax preparation software does it automatically, so file electronically.

5. Errors in figuring tax credits or deductions.  Filers can make mistakes figuring their Earned Income Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit, the standard deduction and other items. Taxpayers need to follow the instructions carefully. For example, if a taxpayer is age 65 or older, or blind, they should be sure to claim the correct, higher standard deduction. The IRS Interactive Tax Assistant can help determine if a taxpayer is eligible for tax credits or deductions.

6. Incorrect bank account numbers.  The IRS strongly urges all taxpayers who have a refund due to choose direct deposit. It’s easy and convenient.  Be careful to use the right routing and account numbers on the tax return. The fastest and safest way to get a refund is to combine e-file with direct deposit.

7. Forms not signed.  An unsigned tax return is like an unsigned check – it’s not valid. Both spouses must sign a joint return. Taxpayers can avoid this error by filing their return electronically. Sign an e-filed tax return digitally before sending it to the IRS.

8. Electronic filing PIN errors. When e-filing, the taxpayer signs and validates the tax return electronically with a prior-year Self-Select Personal Identification Number. If they do not have or know their PIN, they should enter the Adjusted Gross Income from their 2015 tax return originally filed with the IRS. Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return.

Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return. Do not use the AGI amount from an amended return or a return that the IRS corrected.

9. Filing with an expired ITIN. A tax return filed with an expired Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) will be processed and treated as timely filed, but will be processed without any exemptions or credits claimed. Taxpayers will receive a notice from the IRS explaining that an ITIN must be current before any refund is paid. Once the ITIN is renewed, exemptions and credits are processed and any allowed refund paid. ITIN expiration and renewal information is available on IRS.gov 

Avoiding these common filing errors on your tax return is your Warrendale Tip of the Week.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Fish fries return to Ss Peter and Paul

Crowd at Ss Peter & Paul Church - Photo by Frank Nemecek
Lenten fish fries have returned to Ss. Peter and Paul's Activities Bldg. I'm pleased to report that they are as good as they have ever been. The food and comradeship are great as always.

Plus, it's nice to know that my dinner helps the church in some small way.

I hope to see lots of old and new friends there at future Fridays throughout Lent.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The City of Detroit has finished its reassessment of every residential and commercial property within the city limits. This means that the assessed value of our homes and businesses is now more in line with the fair market value of them.

This, by the way, is the first time in decades that the City of Detroit has reassessed all of our property values.

From my own personal experience, this updating of property values means that my property taxes has gone down by $294.

I want to thank Mayor Mike Duggan and his team for making sure that this happened.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tax help available for veterans

Tomorrow, February 15, select volunteer income tax preparation sites across Michigan will be celebrating all men and women who served in the Armed Service by offering free income tax preparation services. At sixteen locations across the state, any military veteran in Michigan will qualify to have their federal, state and city income taxes prepared and filed for free by an IRS-certified volunteer tax preparer. Sites will also provide information on different veteran services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Michigan Taxpayer Advocate Office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Financial Counseling for Veterans initiative.

There will be two locations available within the city of Detroit. AAS Piquette Square (6221 Brush St. in Southwest) will be open from 10 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Also, the Wayne Metro CAA/Michigan Veterans Foundation (4626 Grand River, just south of W. Warren Ave.) will be open from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

“It’s hard to think of organizations who are as dedicated to helping my fellow veterans prepare and file their taxes and receive other important information on financial services and programs,” said State Senator David Knezek (D- Dearborn Heights). “Receiving quality, no-cost services like those offered by CEDAM members is a welcome gesture for the men and women who served our great nation.”

Every year, more than 100,000 Michigan taxpayers get their taxes prepared and filed for free at either a volunteer income tax assistance (VITA), tax counseling for the elderly (TCE) or AARP Tax Aide site. These sites are staffed with volunteers who have been certified by the IRS to prepare income taxes – a training certification that is not required of commercial tax preparers. Usually, there is an income limit of $54,000 to access this high-quality, free service, but on Wednesday, February 15 there will be no income limit for veterans in Michigan.

“As a veteran and former employee of the Michigan Department of Treasury, I understand the importance for taxpayers to receive all eligible and deserved tax credits,” said State Representative Tom Barrett (R – Potterville). “That is why I am so pleased that these free volunteer tax sites across Michigan are stepping up to the plate to give Michigan veterans a quality service and ensure they receive all their eligible tax credits.”
 
In addition to being trained on federal tax law, all VITA/TCE and AARP Tax Aide volunteer preparers are also trained to be sure that every eligible client receives Michigan tax credits like the Michigan Property Tax Credit (MPT) and the Home Heating credit (HHC). In 2016, more than 105,000 Michigan taxpayers used a free tax service, avoiding high-pressure sales pitches for high-cost tax loans and saving more than $14.6 million in tax preparation fees.

“I am pleased to join these IRS certified free tax sites in honoring the men and women who answered the call to serve our nation and protect our freedoms by helping to ensure they receive quality assistance in filing their taxes from highly-trained and IRS certified volunteers,” said Ross H. Yednock, program director of the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition (MEIC) at the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM). “I hope that by helping to serve those who served prepare and file their federal, state and city income taxes, we can make their tax filing season a little easier.”

The MEIC is a program of CEDAM and helps support organizations and local initiatives committed to supporting tax credit and asset building opportunities for Michigan families. All taxpayers are encouraged to go to www.MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org in advance of filing their taxes to receive valuable information regarding federal and state tax credits. The website is maintained by the CEDAM to help connect Michigan workers with free services and free tax sites which save working families money on tax preparation fees and connects them to other quality, low-cost financial services to help increase their financial security.

Taxpayers in Michigan have several options for free help determining their eligibility and claiming credits. They can go to a VITA, TCE or AARP Tax Aide site or prepare their own taxes using a free internet-based tool with assistance from a VITA volunteer either in person or over the phone.

To help accurately determine eligibility and prepare returns at a free tax site, individuals should bring photo proof of identification as well as:

  • Social Security cards for themselves, their spouse and dependents or Social Security number verification letters issued by the Social Security Administration;
  • Birth dates for all persons listed on the tax return;
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Forms W-2, W-2G and 1099-R from all employers;
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099);
  • Copies of last year’s federal and state returns, if available;
  • Bank routing and account numbers for direct deposit of their refunds;
  • Other relevant information about income and expenses; and
  • Amounts paid for day care, if applicable and the day care provider's identifying number.

To electronically file their returns and get the fastest refunds, both spouses must be present to sign joint returns.

To locate a volunteer income tax assistance site in Michigan, or connect with volunteer assisted self-preparation tools, visit www.MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org or call Michigan 2-1-1.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Cody Rouge meeting on January 31


On Tuesday, January 31, the Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance will have their next community meeting from 5 - 7 p.m. This meeting will happen at the Don Bosco Hall (19321 W. Chicago), which is just north of the Warrendale neighborhood.

Dinner will be served.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Friends of Rouge Park to meet on Tuesday

The non-profit community group, Friends of Rouge Park, will hold their next general membership meeting on Tuesday, January 17. Everyone who is interested in the future of Detroit's largest park is invited to attend. This meeting will happen from 6 - 7 pm at the Don Bosco Center (9356 Westwood St. at West Chicago).

The agenda for this meeting will include an update from the City Parks & Recreation Department as well as:
  • Update on Progress on the Scout Hollow Campground;
  • Report from the National Kidney Foundation's work in the park; and
  • Update on Detroit Water & Sewage Department's plan for Green Infrastructure in the park.
There will also be a general discussion of goals for 2017 as well as upcoming events in Rouge Park.
 

Monday, January 09, 2017

10 tips to prevent a rape

The following is a guest commentary from Ricardo Moore, who represents the Warrendale and surrounding neighborhoods on the Detroit Police Commission. This column is presented as part of the semi-regular Tip of the Week feature.

It has been reported by Detroit Police ChiefJames Craig that the crime of Criminal Sexual Conduct (Rape) has risen on the streets of Detroit. As Vice Chairman of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, it is my mission to help keep every woman, man, and child safe from any and all criminal attacks. Please report all crimes that occur to the Detroit Police Department by dialing 9-1-1. When crimes are not reported, it gives law enforcement leaders lower crime data. Unreported or unknown crime is known as the Dark Figure of Crime.
Photo by Adina Voicu/Pixababy

I would like to thank Sgt. Darren Laur and his wife Beth for providing the following safety tips:

Awareness: Your first line of defense. Most people think of kicks to the groin and blocking punches when they hear the term “self-defense.” However, true self-defense begins long before any actual physical contact. The first, and probably most important, component in self-defense is awareness: awareness of yourself, your surroundings, and your potential attacker’s likely strategies.

The criminal’s primary strategy is to use the advantage of surprise. Studies have shown that criminals are adept at choosing targets who appear to be unaware of what is going on around them. By being aware of your surroundings and by projecting a “force presence,” many altercations which are commonplace on the street can be avoided.

Use your sixth sense. “Sixth Sense.” “Gut instinct.” Whatever you call it, your intuition is a powerful subconscious insight into situations and people. All of us, especially women, have this gift, but very few of us pay attention to it. Learn to trust this power and use it to your full advantage. Avoid a person or a situation which does not “feel” safe–you’re probably right.

Self-defense training. It is important to evaluate the goals and practical usefulness of a women’s self-defense program before signing up. Here are two tips:
  1. Avoid martial arts studios unless you specifically wish to train in the traditional martial arts techniques and are prepared for a long-term commitment. Many women’s self-defense programs teach watered-down martial arts techniques that are complex and unrealistic under the stress of an actual attack;
  2. The self-defense program should include simulated assaults with a fully padded instructor in realistic rape and attack scenarios, to allow you to practice what you’ve learned.

Escape: Always your best option. What if the unthinkable happens? You are suddenly confronted by a predator who demands that you go with him–be it in a car, or into an alley, or a building. It would seem prudent to obey, but you must never leave the primary crime scene. You are far more likely to be killed or seriously injured if you go with the predator than if you run away (even if he promises not to hurt you). Run away, yell for help, throw a rock through a store or car window–do whatever you can to attract attention. And if the criminal is after your purse or other material items, throw them one way while you run the other.

Your right to fight. Unfortunately, no matter how diligently we practice awareness and avoidance techniques, we may find ourselves in a physical confrontation. Whether or not you have self-defense training, and no matter what your age or physical condition, it is important to understand that you can and should defend yourself physically. You have both the moral and legal right to do so, even if the attacker is only threatening you and hasn’t struck first. Many women worry that they will anger the attacker and get hurt worse if they defend themselves, but statistics clearly show that your odds of survival are far greater if you do fight back. Aim for the eyes first and the groin second. Remember, though, to use the element of surprise to your advantage–strike quickly, and mean business. You may only get one chance.

Pepper spray: Pros and cons. Pepper spray, like other self-defense aids, can be a useful tool. However, it is important to understand that there can be significant drawbacks to its use. For example, did you know that it doesn’t work for everyone? Surprisingly, 15-20% of people will not be incapacitated even by a full-face spray. Also, if you’re carrying it in your purse, you will only waste time and alert the attacker to your intentions while you fumble for it. Never depend on any self-defense tool or weapon to stop an attacker. Trust your body and your wits, which you can always depend on in the event of an attack.

Home invasions: A crime on the rise. The primary way to prevent a home invasion is simply to never, ever open your door unless you either are certain you know who’s on the other side or can verify that they have a legitimate reason for being there (dressing up as a repair person or even police officer is one trick criminals use). In the event that an intruder breaks in while you’re home, you should have a safe room in your house to which you can retreat. Such a room should be equipped with a strong door, deadbolt lock, phone (preferably cell phone), and a can of pepper spray or fire extinguisher.

Avoiding a carjacking. Lock all doors and keep windows up when driving. Most carjackings take place when vehicles are stopped at intersections. The criminals approach at a 45-degree angle (in the blind spot), and either pull you out of the driver’s seat or jump in the passenger’s seat.

A travel tip. Violent crimes against women happen in the best and worst hotels around the world. Predators may play the part of a hotel employee, push their way through an open or unlocked door, or obtain a passkey to the room. As with home safety, never open your door unless you are certain the person on the other side is legitimate, and always carry a door wedge with you when you travel. A wedge is often stronger than the door it secures.

Safety in cyberspace. Although the Internet is educational and entertaining, it can also be full of danger if one isn’t careful. When communicating on-line, use a nickname and always keep personal information such as home address and phone number confidential. Instruct family members to do the same.