Dearborn police chief on fighting crime in a diverse city

Under the tenure of Chief Ronald Haddad, who took the top job in Dearborn's police force in 2008, the City of Dearborn went from making the Forbes magazine Most Dangerous City list to more recently, an "Overlooked Dream City" list.


Dearborn is the first city in the nation to provide training to avoid the use of violent force. Officers receive training in de-escalation and must attend a seven-week class at the University of Michigan-Dearborn on alternatives to use of violent force.


Haddad is the city's first Arab-American police chief. He came to Dearborn after 34 years with the City of Detroit Police Department where he led the city's homeland security efforts. Metromode spoke with Haddad recently about his crime-fighting philosophy and how he'd presided over a reduction in crime in one of Michigan's most diverse cities.


Metromode: Why did you decide to leave Detroit to come to Dearborn, what was interesting to you about the city?


Haddad: I felt that the mayor was committed to a vision of reducing crime, and providing the entire community with superior service. I'd long known that Dearborn provides their citizens with quite enviable services, that appealed to me.


Metromode: What have been the biggest surprises in Dearborn?


Haddad: When I first got here, we were on the Forbes Magazine Most Dangerous City list because of per capita crime. We didn't experience the violent crime of other urban areas, but with larcenies and domestic violence and the way that the National Crime Index is figured out it's computed against the resident population. There's no asterisk that says, "Oh by the way, we have 12.5 million visitors at Fairlane Town Center every year and two million people that go into Greenfield Village every year."


One problem was that our department didn't really measure anything very well. So we put things online that measured crime, and how our resources were being spent, and to fast forward most recently we were on a very complimentary overlooked cities list.


I think we have targeted crime in a very effective and constructive way. The results speak for themselves. What's most important to me is that we don't have any victims, it's not about a statistic, it's about a victim.


Haddad joins communigty members in the annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships.

Metromode: How have you targeted crime to bring the rate down in Dearborn?


Haddad: About three years ago I went to a court meeting, and I said, "By the way, how's our shoplifting cases?" They said, "Well what do you mean? I said, "Well, what are they after, what do they get in court?" They said, "Well we'll have to research and get back to you."


Well they did and they found out that in the previous year we issued 900 tickets on site and released for shoplifting and that less than one percent of them showed up in court. So they had all these open cases for larceny from our stores.


So I got with the mayor and pushed for a policy change where everybody that gets caught defrauding an innkeeper, not paying their hotel bill, shoplifting, it's not always at the mall, it could be 24 hour drugstore on the corner, you know? They have to pay a 400 dollar bond before they get out.


To fast forward, now after two years the courts report that less than one percent are delinquent on their cases or pleading guilt. It went from 900 shoplifters and retail fraud and defrauding cases to something short of 600. So that in turn, when computed against a city population, is a 33 percent reduction.


Another thing we did was the lock it or lose it campaign. We had about 900 cases every year where people leave their cars unlocked and they lose valuables from in the car, some of them leave their car keys in the car and they lose the whole damn car,


Other people leave the car keys and a loaded weapon in the car, and don't ask me why, but then they're mad at me when their car gets ripped off. So we went on a massive campaign, Lock It or Lose It. And the State of Michigan adopted that campaign for their very own because they saw value in it.


Over the last, year and a half or so we've reduced the victims of the larceny from unlocked cars by about 12 percent. We're gonna ignite the campaign again this summer and hopefully we can get that up to about 30 percent.


Metromode: How do you connect with the community in Dearborn?


Haddad: We have our patrol officers doing an array of things to connect with the community. Everyone has to stop at a school everyday, they have to do business checks, they check all places of worship during peak times, the mosque, the churches on holidays and holy days.


They do this everyday. It's not negotiable. The policy says they have to do it. Then when citizens complain about certain traffic infractions or quality of life issues we to the patrol officer assigned, he's gotta go out there and meet with the citizen.


And we work with a lot of our social and community agencies. We have our own domestic violence advocate. We push families to counseling. In those cases where the victim doesn't want to prosecute, if there's some repetitiveness to it or egregious, we take them and we prosecute them at the local court ourselves, which the law provides for. We just want to de-escalate and make sure that people are held accountable.


Metromode: What do you see as the future challenges; things that you still need to adjust or need more work in the city?


Haddad: I think with more people coming into the city we've got to just make sure they're kept safe, from just basic crime. I see that as a challenge. Traffic, believe it or not, is the number one complaint in the city--injuries, accidents, distracted driving. I think that that's a huge challenge.


Another huge challenge I see that's impacting our city is the abuse of heroin and prescription drugs. I see that as a very serious challenge not only for Dearborn but for our country.


So we're doing a lot of awareness training at all levels, schools, community, places of worship. We also have trained all of our officers and equipped them with Narcan. That's gives somebody another shot at life until they can be brought to the hospital. We've saved many lives, or prolonged their lives anyway. If they keep doing it they're gonna be dead anyway. We try to give them a second chance, to get help.


With that drug epidemic comes a series of social and public safety issues. People start stealing from their families, they start stealing from the community, erode the educational process where people drop out of school.


Metromode: What can you tell us about how the Dearborn police force has dealt with issues around racial profiling, and all of the racial tensions that have arisen the last couple years?


Haddad: You know, we've trained our men and women really hard and they don't profile. We look at crime patterns, we're data-driven on evidence, we've had the U of M Ann Arbor come in and take two looks at our traffic stops and they've determined twice that 68 percent of the time when somebody gets stopped the officers don't have a clue as to who is behind the wheel.


We're a very diverse city. We seek police employees at all levels of the department that are prepared and committed to serve a diverse community.


Metromode: What do you want people who are maybe thinking about moving to Dearborn or starting a business in Dearborn and might be concerned about crime issues, what should they know?


Haddad: I would tell them that our city is very safe, and that we have a fully staffed, not only police department, but a public safety including fire and rescue and EMS, and we have less than a one to three minute response time that's one of the best in the country. Our entire community takes a very aggressive stand against crime and they would benefit from that.


Read more articles by Nina Misuraca Ignaczak.

Nina Misuraca Ignaczak is Metromode's managing editor. Follow her on Twitter @ninaignaczak or on Instagram at ninaignaczak.