By Vickie Thomas
Over the last several days WWJ Newsradio 950 has been reporting on deadly and brutal crimes in Detroit. One incident left singing sensation and local pastor Marvin Winans roughed up and robbed of his Rolex watch, his $70,000 SUV and $200 in cash. Winans had stopped to gas up at a station on Linwood and Davison in Detroit.
This morning I interviewed a shaken 66-year-old woman who woke up at 3 a.m. with a man pointing a shotgun and shining a flashlight in her face before making off with her safe that contained $8,000. Police say the bad guys kicked in her side door. Her ailing 96-year-old mother slept through the ordeal in the well-kept neighborhood on Piedmont Street in the Grandmont-Rosedale Park community.
"It's just a shame that you can't feel safe in your own home," the frightened homeowner told me three hours after the home invasion. "I don't know how long it'll take me to get over this…you never feel normal again." Despite the rude awakening she also said, "I don't have anything against the city. I think this is a secure neighborhood. It's just people…I don't plan to go anywhere."
Her next door neighbor Raymond Butler had a similar experience, "On the Fourth of July last year, the guy pointed a gun at my head, dragged me out the bed and told me not to say a word. His partner went in the room and took two safes out of here." He also said because of his neighbor's ordeal he had a flashback. "Waking up to a gun in your face ain't no joke," Butler said.
On the same day this week that Mayor Dave Bing helped turn the dirt at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Whole Foods Store on Mack and Woodward, a friend of an antique store owner brutally beaten to death during a robbery at his store, made an impassioned plea for the city to get a grip on crime. I wanted to quiz the mayor about the impact of crime on merchants doing busy in the city but his communications director Robert Warfield told me Bing wasn't taking any questions about crime that day. He said that would be a question for the police chief. WWJ has requested a sit down interview with the chief.
Now enter Andre Ventura. He hasn't had much luck getting a response out of the powers-that-be either. So, he replaced a huge sign on 8 mile and Cardoni Street that talked about building strong roots in the community with one that says "Warning! This city is infested with crack heads. Secure your belongings and pray for your life."
The former military man said, "This is a war zone. Where in a rational community do you have bullets flying every day? Where you have houses being fire bombed, cars being blown up and people shot in the streets? I would honestly rather be fighting the Taliban than crack heads," he said.
That's why he believes the National Guard is the best solution. "That would be the only thing that could secure this place. The Detroit police department is just as corrupt as the crack heads on the streets and there needs to be a mediator between the two," Ventura added.
After ten years of living in Detroit, Ventura says he has had enough because nothing has changed. He has sent certified letters talking about the plight of Detroit children to everyone from former Governor Jennifer Granholm to current Mayor Dave Bing. "Nobody has responded. The living conditions of children of Detroit - when I served this country in the military we didn't allow American children to live like that."
He also said over the last ten years he's spent about four million dollars in time and resources to make life better for kids in the neighborhood but the constant gunfire and stealing of tools and lawnmowers he used to keep up the park on Cardoni Street are forcing him out. "You have a trailer with tools in it…they take the whole trailer. They take the trucks. I had a snowplow and it came up missing in pieces – first came the hydraulics, the pumps, the shovels and then the whole truck gone, Ventura said.
What do you think?
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