Block clubs, community patrols tackling issues of crime, blight in Detroit neighborhoods

File image of a neighborhood watch sign
File image of a neighborhood watch sign. Photo credit © MATT DAYHOFF/JOURNAL STAR / USA TODAY NETWORK

DETROIT (WWJ) -- Why does Detroit have so many block clubs, and what exactly do they do?

According to Luther Keith, Executive Director of ARISE Detroit! the city describes a block club as "a voluntary participation and creative citizen leadership group, which is the key to developing strong communities."

A typical block club, he explained, is a group whose members come from the same street and neighborhood or surrounding area. "And because everyone lives in a shared space, there's a common community interest in improving the community," Keith said.

In episode 2 of the ARISE Detroit! Neighborhood Transformers podcast, produced in partnership with WWJ, Keith spoke with George Preston, president of the Mohican Regent Residents Association on the city's east side.

Preston explained: "We are just a group of neighbors that come together, working together to solve problems in the community. And we've got a great rapport from the community, and we're working well together in terms of sitting down monthly to discuss the issues and concerns of our community. And we do what we can to work with the people in our community to resolve the problems."

His group is an umbrella organization covering about 60 city blocks and 1,200 homes, Preston said — and he and his members have touched base with just about everyone who lives in those homes.

"We listen to the community; the blight is a problem and that fear of crime. These are all things that we're concerned with," he said. "So some of the things that we've done, we've organized teams to work together to eliminate, or work together to impact the blight in the neighborhood."

They also have what he called "a community patrol."

"We'll ride the community just to look around and see what are some of the problems, some of the issues, some of the eyesores even in the community," Preston said. "And we'll sit down and try to devise a way to impact those things."

G. Peggy Noble, president of the College Park Community Association on Detroit's west side, said they have signs around the neighborhoods warning would-be criminals that residents will report all suspicious activity.

Also, Nobel said, "We do have some members that will drive around during the day, afternoon and the evening and we look and see what's going on. I'm very much involved with my police precinct, which is the Eighth Precinct — all though I'm not a member of the radio patrol — but if I see something suspicious I can always can my neighborhood police officer, and they usually come out and help us if it's something suspicious going on that we know shouldn't be going on in the community."

Hear more of this conversation by clicking on the play button above, or visit this link.

This podcast is made possible with funding from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. Learn more about ARISE Detroit! at arisedetroit.org.