DetroitJanuary 30, 2014
State Rep. Brian Banks hosts crime and safety town hall
By April Lehmbeck
C & G Staff Writer
State Rep. Brian Banks has been working with local carpenters, volunteers and others to help clean up blight in the district.
DETROIT — State Rep. Brian Banks, D-Harper Woods, says he’s on a mission to battle blight and combat crime to keep residents safe. As part of his work on these issues, Banks is hosting a town hall meeting on crime and safety from 6-8 p.m. Feb. 3 at East English Village Preparatory Academy, 5020 Cadieux. “Residents can come and learn how to better protect themselves and stay safe,” Banks said. The program will include a panel of people from local police departments, schools, churches and other community groups. The group Detroit 300 will be represented, as well. They are bringing in vendors, like self-defense class representatives and alarm companies, as well as trying to bring in a shredder so people can protect themselves from identify theft. “Everyone will be sharing their crime prevention tips,” Banks said. Those tips include making sure to change daily routines and keeping lights on. One of the panelists, MorningSide Community Organization President O’Dell Tate, had some safety tips to share. “I think that we all share the same sentiment: that public safety is definitely the top priority,” Tate said. One tip is a buddy system that they implement in his neighborhood that has neighbors looking out for each other and working together. Tate said if neighbors will be away from home, they “let our four surrounding neighbors know … so they can patrol and look out for us.” They also have a community patrol to have eyes and ears in the neighborhood looking for suspicious activity. Also, they encourage their neighbors to take precautions when they buy a big-ticket item, like a big-screen television. “We try to encourage them to cut up those boxes and put them in their trash receptacles,” he said, adding that boxes thrown at the curb advertise to criminals that something valuable is in the home. He also encourages communication. “We have, here in MorningSide, an email blast and a texting that we send out,” he said, adding that any reports of suspicious activity or a crime in progress can be sent to everyone in the community and the police. He said he’d like to see every neighborhood implement similar safety programs because he wants everyone to have a “strong, safe environment.” In an effort to fight blight, Banks has worked on targeting vacant buildings. “After being in office a few months … I began to see so many blighted properties that were close to school buildings, especially in the Detroit part of our district,” he said. “We wanted to ensure our students had a safe route to school.” With the help of local volunteers, licensed carpenters, friends and family, Banks headed out to board up homes, cut lawns and take steps to make things safer. The team boarded up more than 150 homes that were considered blight issues in the district. He says he’s not done with his work yet and wants people to report abandoned homes needing attention in the district to his office by calling (888) 254-5291 or emailing him at BrianBanks@house.mi.gov. “Combating crime and working toward making the 1st District a safer place to live and work is one of my primary tasks, and I am working tirelessly to see it through,” Banks said in an email statement. “One way I am doing this is by using a zero-tolerance approach to the potential threats that drug dealers, criminals, vagrants and thieves pose to a safer way of life for Detroiters. Through my work with the community, I identified blighted and abandoned homes as hotbeds for these threats.”