CNN recently reported that Detroit is among the most dangerous cities in the world — no, not the United States, the world. One of only two American cities on the list, Detroit ranks among places like Baghdad, Karachi and Moscow. The FBI recently reported that the murder rate in Detroit rose to 361 homicides last year – nearly a murder per day. If these statistics don’t sadden you, surely the story of Aiyana Jones will. Following the murder of Jerean Blake, 17 on May 14, the Detroit Police Department dispatched its Special Response Team to raid the home of Chauncey Owens, the individual believed responsible for the murder. As the police raided the home, bullets flew and seven-year-old Aiyana Jones was killed. Now the city of Detroit is mourning the death of two children and people are clamoring to place blame. The death of Aiyana Jones must be a lesson to the city: until police and citizens can work together to combat violence, danger will continue to plague Detroit.

Reminiscent of Gotham City, it’s often hard to discern the good guys from the bad guys in Detroit. This is proliferated by a “no snitch” culture that often permeates the streets of Detroit. This philosophy is simple: tell the police nothing. “When it comes to the no-snitch thing, this city is too far gone” said 15-year-old Antonio Bolden of southwest Detroit. The city of Detroit simply does not trust the police. According to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, “If everyone told what they knew, that would put a huge dent in the crime issue.” If the city of Detroit continues to abide by this dangerous code, Aiyana Jones will not be the last little girl to lose her life.

If violence is to be curbed in Detroit, citizens and police must make safety a priority. As it is, citizens do not trust the Detroit Police. A history of corruption and wrongdoings within and by the Detroit Police Department has frequently left the citizens of Detroit without a trustworthy public protector. Given their tarnished reputation, DPD should institute outreach programs in order to develop the trust necessary to work with — not against — the citizens they serve. Furthermore, the current police investigation into the murder of Aiyana Jones must be transparent and forthright; if the Detroit Police Department ever hopes to win the hearts and minds of the city, it must be seen as an ally in the fight against violence, not its proliferator.

Chauncey Owens is a dangerous man, and he was hunted down because of this. According to an AP report, Aiyana’s aunt is engaged to marry Chauncey Owens. Additionally, WWJ Newsradio now indicates that Aiyana’s father is under investigation for driving the getaway car in the Blake murder. Allowing danger to live in your home — moreover, allowing a murderer to live under the same roof as a seven-year-old girl — puts everyone at risk.

Though the University has a presence in Detroit, it’s not exactly there on a peace-building mission. Part of the Semester in Detroit program should focus on making the city a safer place. And one way to do that is by helping to clean up the Detroit Police Department’s image — be it through media campaigns, outreach programs with respected local officials or simple door-to-door initiatives, as Kym Worthy has suggested. Somehow, the program should spread the word that the Detroit Police are here to help.

The death of Aiyana Jones must bring together the citizens of Detroit as well as the police against a common enemy: violence. The University cannot sit idly by in our safe haven of Ann Arbor. Instead, the Leaders and Best must step forward and work with local officials to combat this problem . Until then, Detroit will remain America’s frontlines.

Tyler Jones can be reached tylerlj@umich.edu.

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