Opinions and Legal Insights

Are DOJ Visits to Detroit, Other Cities Political Moves?

Detroit’s crime has long been on the radar of the federal government, though visits from high-ranking Justice Department officials have been rare. Detroit, though, is witnessing something different this year, reports the Detroit Free Press. The feds are coming personally to check on the crime problem and offer assistance; U.S. Attorney General William Barr came to town last week and Drug Enforcement Administration acting chief Timothy Shea is due Wednesday. The visits and intensified focus on Detroit have triggered skepticism locally as many suspect a political power play. Many believe that Detroit’s crime problem is being used to help President Donald Trump promote his law-and-order campaign and win votes in November, a consistent theme at the Republican National Convention this week.

“I can understand how that can be seen that way. I think the timing is just not real good … it’s odd,” said Detroit’s ex-FBI chief Andy Arena, who rarely saw top DOJ Department leaders visit Detroit when he oversaw the FBI office from 2007-2012. Arena believes federal law enforcement is committed to bringing crime down in Detroit, not politicking. When asked if he thinks Detroit’s recent crime wave is being used as a campaign tool, he said: “I hope not. But I certainly wouldn’t be shocked.” Social activists, residents and leaders across Michigan have expressed concern that crime is being used in a perverse way in the wake of a new White House initiative dubbed Operation Legend, which involves sending federal agents into nine U.S. cities. In Detroit, Police Chief James Craig welcomes the help of the 42 more federal agents on the ground helping police. The Black Lives Matter movement opposes the federal intervention and has asked for Craig to resign. Over the weekend, 42 people were arrested in Detroit during a protest against Operation Legend