Reporting Kathryn Larson
DETROIT (WWJ) - Just three months after members of the Detroit Police Officer Association warned visitors that the “war-like” city was too dangerous and they should enter at their own risk, the union’s president is saying people shouldn’t be afraid to go downtown and see the Auto Show.
DPOA President Mark Diaz said despite recent collective bargaining issues and their newly imposed 12 hour work days, the men and women of the Detroit Police Department will be out in full force during the North American International Auto Show — which is in town through Jan. 27.
“We’re going to saturate the entire downtown area for those that are coming in, visiting, not just going to the Auto Show but attending various shows, as well as going to the restaurants. We want to make sure its a great experience, a safe experience for everyone coming into the city, and again, those living in the city, and we encourage them to come,” he said.
Diaz, a 20-year veteran of the force, said he knows officers in Detroit are being pushed to their limits, but that doesn’t stop them from doing their job to protect and serve the city’s citizens and visitors.
“It’s a tough job that we have. We definitely have a lot of cards stacked against us, but our guys are very dedicated to ensuring that everyone coming into the city for the Auto Show will receive the utmost security and protection,” he said.
Diaz said officers expect citizens to do their part too, and that includes more than just locking your car doors to ward off potential thieves.
“The basic reminders that we oftentimes forget, like garage door openers, you know, hanging from your sun visor. Those are things where a lot of people leave their home address in their glovebox on their vehicle registration. When you have your garage door opener and you have your registration in your car, essentially you are opening up an opportunity for someone to have a key to your home,” he said.
Diaz said a visibly increased police presence will not only bring feelings of security, but actually some enjoyment for visitors.
“There are a lot of families coming into the downtown area for the Auto Show and I think it’s great to see the various means we use in providing police protection, whether it may be by bike patrol, on the Segways perhaps, in police cars and of course, everyone loves to see the horses,” he said.
Diaz wouldn’t talk much about an October incident where the police union held an “Enter At Your Own Risk” rally outside of Comerica Park during the MLB World Series. Officers say they held the event to remind the public that they are overworked, understaffed, and at times, fearful for their lives — but Diaz said the “unfortunate” display only had negative effects on the department. He declined to elaborate.
Diaz also said recently published crime statistics for 2012, which show that Detroit recorded its highest number of homicides in nearly 20 years, shouldn’t stop people from traveling to the city to enjoy all that it has to offer.