How Neighborhood Watch Works In High-Crime Detroit Area


What’s a neighborhood watch like in a very high-crime area? The Los Angeles Times describes James “Jackrabbit” Jackson’s activities in Detroit’s bleak Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood. “Just so you know,” he told his newly moved-in neighbor. “There’s probably gonna be some shooting tonight.” “What do you mean shooting?” the neighbor asked. “Should I call the police?” “Call the police?” Jackson said. “Shoot, I am the police.”

For three years, the 61-year-old Jackson, a retired Detroit police officer, has patrolled the streets of a neighborhood that was once propped up by the city’s mighty carmakers but is now a mausoleum for vacant homes. With his video camera, he films the criminals who have filtered in: drug dealers working off the stoops of abandoned homes, burglars casing houses still occupied, chop-shop operators dismantling cars. Some people grumble about Jackson’s methods, but criticism is rare. For many residents, his unsanctioned crime-fighting is a source of hope after the city closed and consolidated the police precinct as Detroit’s revenue and population fell. Surveillance cameras are mounted on many of the vintage 1930s homes, installed by Jackson and other residents, and more are on the way via a local business group. Street corners are spotted with bright yellow signs with a blunt warning: “See what you do today on TV at 36th Dist. Court tomorrow.”

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