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Detroit cops fight violence spike, social distancing violations with depleted manpower

Detroit A recent rise in shootings and murders has prompted the city's depleted police force to "refocus on eradicating violence," while also scrambling to enforce rampant violations of the governor's social distancing order, chief James Craig said Wednesday.

From April 1 through Tuesday, there were eight homicides and 27 nonfatal shootings in Detroit, according to police department data. Last year, the city averaged about five homicides and 15 shootings per week. Year-to-date, there have been 67 criminal homicides in Detroit a 68% increase over this time last year and 173 nonfatal shootings, up 37%

Meanwhile, as police try to quell the violence, they're also dealing with Detroiters who are violating Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's order prohibiting crowds from gathering. In the past three weeks, Detroit cops have responded to nearly 2,000 reports of people congregating for basketball games, parties and barbecues.

The increased police workload comes as nearly 20% of Detroit's 2,200 officers are quarantined amid a COVID-19 outbreak that includes the chief, who is recovering at home after testing positive for the virus two weeks ago.Since April 4, Detroit police have gone to 1,976 "special attention" runs about reported violations, issued 545 warnings, broke up nine parties, including five barbecues, and issued 129 citations in 92 locations where five or more people congregated. On Tuesday, police issued 74 warnings and 35 citations in 11 locations.

"I've made a commitment that there would be no disruption of service, and first and foremost, we want to make sure we're responding to emergencies," Craig said. "We're continuing to fight that fight, and we won't relent"At the same time, we have to do enforcement where we're getting large numbers of people congregating."

City officials removed basketball hoops from city parks to prevent people from playing, but Detroiters are using their own portable hoops, Craig said. (Tuesday) officers responded to a gas station, where someone had set up a hoop, and a number of young people had converged," he said. "Many of these young people need to understand that this is serious. People are dying, and this virus does not discriminate. Even if you're asymptomatic, you could give it to someone you love, and it could cost them their life."

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