DETROIT, MI – Chief James Craig today announced that the Detroit Police Department will be launching a specialized police unit for the two largest parks in Detroit. Those two being Rouge and Chandler parks.
Both parks have their challenges and history has not been good in some high profile instances when it comes to crime and nefarious activities. Each park has seen its share of alcohol consumption, drugs, prostitution and murders over the years.
Chandler Park back in the summer of 2006 was so bad that a local liquor store filmed some of the action and made a DVD entitled “Chandler Park Gone Wild”. It was a take off from the wildly popular “Girls Gone Wild” videos that were being sold on late night TV through infomercials.
Cars would be parked in the middle of the street. Prostitutes would openly solicit johns. People would set up chairs, drink alcohol and would smoke marijuana near the park’s aquatic center. It was lawless to the point that it discouraged families from using the water park. Some even made a sport of sitting across the street to watch the drug sales and the open intoxicants being consumed all while adults screamed foul language at each other.
In mid-August of 2006 after residents complained, deputies began patrolling in marked cars to keep watch over the park from sunrise to 11 p.m. Much like what is happening on Belle Isle with vehicles being stopped, those patrols were finding much of the same exact things. Divers and occupants with multiple warrants for their arrest, expired tags on cars, drugs, open containers and cars with no insurance.
Once patrols were stepped up in Chandler Park, crime was cut by half in a very short period of time.
On the west side of Detroit is the sprawling Rouge Park. At one time it was a place where families would take their children to enjoy walks, swing sets and picnics. Today it is overgrown and sad.
If you are looking for a working street light on Rouge Park Drive, there are few if any that remain or are working. This park has also become yet another illegal dumping ground in the City of Detroit. Piles upon piles of trash are dumped along side the road by those who think no one will notice.
For months a section of road way on Rouge Park Drive was tore out. Those who use this particular street on a regular basis had to detour around it and through the adjacent neighborhood to get where they were going. Recently that problem was rectified and the roadway has been repaired.
Murders, robberies, rapes, assaults have all occurred in Rouge Park. Recently dozens of dead dogs were found dumped in the park. During the day it can be a roll of the dice if you want to stop your car and walk the vast areas available. At night, dont even think about stopping. Anything can happen and it does. Your life is in danger in that park from dusk to dawn.
The problems of the past could come back to haunt the Detroit Police Department if they are not careful when it comes to Rouge Park. For decades it has been well known that gay men have used the park as a means of meeting someone for a sexual encounter.
Those sitting in their cars or out in the open and just talking with another person is not a crime. It becomes a crime when sexual encounters happen openly in vehicles or when it is done in the many wooded areas of Rouge Park.
The problems came about when gay men were targeted by Detroit Police. Officers would arrest individuals and then use vague city ordinances to unfairly entrap them. In May of 2002 the Detroit City Council approved a $170,000 settlement concerning a lawsuit brought by the Triangle Foundation and seven men for such practices by the Detroit Police Department.
The 1964 annoying persons ordinance was meant to deter obnoxious, indecent or lewd behavior in public places. Police had used it to arrest people, mainly gay men, who allegedly engaged in lewd activity at Rouge Park.
Several arrest reports from that time in Rouge Park showed that men had been arrested for simply sitting in a car and talking with another man, flirting or blowing kisses at undercover officers. Many times the men were aware that they were cops. In one instance, a man was arrested for giving an undercover officer a phone number.
Many of the men were ticketed under the ordinance, which was a misdemeanor offense. They also had their vehicles impounded and had to pay at least $900 to reclaim their vehicle unless they fought the ticket in court and won.
Chief Craig cannot let past history come back to embarrass him. He needs to know what the past issues have been and ensure that they do not cost the city dearly this time.