Change Agents: Live6 area residents and stakeholders collaborate to improve safety and well-being

Change Agents: Live6 area residents and stakeholders collaborate to improve safety and well-being

The tentacles of community redevelopment and reorganization reach further than the average Detroit resident might suppose.

A recent Live6 event in the Livernois and McNichols area was proof positive of that.  Live6, the planning and development nonprofit organization, held Speakeasy, the latest in its monthly community dialogue series. Its aim is to bring together neighbors in the area around the two major byways to discuss issues of significance to resident’s safety and well-being.

Since January, the year-long series has given those residents the chance to gather, hear representatives from area and city organizations speak on the topic at hand, and offer their own feedback.

“The organizations we host then take the feedback and the needs of the residents and turning it into real and tangible change for the neighborhood,” says Lauren Hood, acting co-director of Live6.

Live6 Co-Director Lauren Hood is a leading advocate of inclusionary neighborhood development efforts. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Each month, Hood offers up a theme. This month it was public safety, a major issue since two major educational institutions – University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove College – anchor the neighborhood and draw large numbers of students and faculty each day to live and work in the area. Safety is always a concern.

The event was held at Detroit Sip, a coffee shop located in the heart of the Live6 area (Live, standing for Livernois, and 6, for Six Mile Road). Topics covered included the impact of academic changes at Marygrove College, new commercial development opportunities and crime prevention.

Impact of changes at Marygrove

One of the larger issues dominating the district is Marygrove College eliminating its undergraduate programs. Much confusion has lurked in the community over the past several months as to what exactly was happening. Was the college closing completely? Were graduate programs being eliminated?

The issue is simply cost.

“Unfortunately, the overall enterprise is running too much of a deficit, says Frank Rashid, dean of faculty at Marygrove and a four-decade resident of the University District, who took the stage to clear the air. “It hasn’t been sustainable, and we had finally been instructed by those at the top that more dramatic measures needed to be taken.

“The options are very limited for an institution like ours,” he says.

Graduate programs will continue, as will the school’s community-focused programs like children’s programming on weekends and the senior center on campus, he says.


Chief Joel Galihugh, acting director of public safety at the University of Detroit Mercy, says his force will expand its patrol area. His patrol is bounded by the roads of Livernois, McNichols, Florence, and Puritan.

State legislation passed a few years ago took Galihugh’s force out of patrolling the neighborhood and limited them to the campus only. Recent new legislation, however, will restate his police powers back to patrolling outside the gates. There are 47 current officers on his force. Thirteen of them are security officers and the remainder police officers.

“The patrol area will return to what it was,” he says. “My force will now be pushing forward the plan with the City of Detroit. My officers will then be retrained with the correct state standards, credentials, and certification in order to execute their responsibilities. My goal is to have the force reinstated by the end of the year.”

One resident asked how many of the officers are from the city itself, an important factor in residents’ feeling most comfortable with their law enforcement. Approximately a dozen officers are official residents of the city, many of them hired directly from the Detroit Police Department.

“Detroit Mercy wants to be part of the community—it already is part of the community.” -Chief Joel Galihugh, Acting Director of Public Safety, University of Detroit Mercy

“We are not here to replace the City of Detroit,” says Galihugh. “We’re here as an added resource to the city patrols.

“Just being present helps deter crime,” he says.

His patrol is bounded by the roads of Livernois, McNichols, Florence, and Puritan.

He took a moment to wax on the University’s past—that it has been in existence since 1877. “It has been here a long time and is going to be here a long time to come. The University wants to be part of the community—it already is part of the community.”


Introducing the players with a major financial stake in neighborhood redevelopment was an incremental part of the evening as well.

Maureen Anway, neighborhoods coordinator for Invest Detroit and a familiar face at Speakeasy events, discussed her organization’s work in commercial redevelopment. The organization is now looking for development opportunities beyond downtown and Midtown and into the neighborhoods.

As a certified community development financial institution, Invest Detroit has become a sizable property owner on Six Mile, which Hood admits is of slight concern to some of those embedded there.

“The exciting part is that we are letting the community decide how we are spending a significant amount of money.” -Lauren Hood, Co-Director, Live6

“Our thought is how we introduce a new investor and also have them keep a lid on expansion and, thus, property values,” says Hood, cognizant of what has gone on in other parts of the city where property values have started to rise dramatically.

Last year, Live6 and Invest Detroit were co-applicants on the Reimagining the Civic Commons grant, a three-year grant that provides a sizable sum of real dollars that will help with physical development, safety, and capital improvements.

“The exciting part is that we are letting the community decide how we are spending a significant amount of money,” says Hood.

To do that, Anway taped two large pieces of paper to the wall while Hood asked the audience for ideas on safety initiatives based on what they’ve heard and on crimes on their block. Everything from lighting to garbage pick-up to tenant’s responsibilities were suggested.

Live6 Speakeasy events draw the support and attention of neighborhood residents who appreciate the problem-solving platform, which allows local citizenry to become change agents.  Photo by Michelle Chris Gerard

“It’s a great process but it’s just the start,” says Hood. “When people see their ideas turning into real programs, it will then open the door for even more robust engagement in the future. Residents can then tell neighbors, ‘Hey, I went to this meeting and made this suggestion, and now it’s being implemented in the neighborhood.’”

Hood, a lifelong resident of the area, realizes all too well safety is consistently the number one concern for residents in her area. Speakeasy offers citizens a voice, further helping many areas of the city rebound, those that have yet to see particular attention paid to it by both civic and financial investment.

“People appreciate having a role in addressing that,” she says. “As we dove further into this, we could see that there was real value in addressing these concerns.”

Live6 aims to enhance the quality of life for the residents of Northwest Detroit area neighborhoods and to provide ongoing economic opportunity. Their areas of focus include real estate development, business attraction and retention, placemaking (or highlighting the existing culture and assets in a neighborhood), residential stabilization, safety, and engagement.


Sara Thornton, researcher with Americorps’ Urban Safety program and the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University, was on hand to discuss how her program works and how it has a focused approach on crime.

It works directly with the Detroit Police Department and Compstat or Computer Statistics, the crime data analysis system that helps departments identify and target crime hotspots. The precinct surrounding Wayne State University has utilized Compstat to a great degree and found it very effective in reducing crime.

“We look at all 12 precincts,” says Thornton, whose work currently takes place mostly in the 12th precinct. Her team meets monthly with the police, community partners, and community patrols to review crime statistics. There is a Compstat analysis for each precinct in Detroit.

Hood asked Thornton to speak specifically about where hotspots currently exist.

“We try to focus our resources on targeting them, but there haven’t consistently been any heavily clustered hotspots,” she says.

Thornton and her team work with the Michigan Department of Corrections as well to check in with probationers or parolees and have an American Urban Safety team who leaflet the area to alert residents when crimes occur.

“Overall crime has decreased in the past five years,” she says. “Violent crime had remained steady for many years, but now it’s on the decline.”

Speakeasy has proven successful and Hood’s immediate feedback from the residents present was upbeat and positive.

“I just get excited to hear from people,” she says. “As a director of an organization like this, you get pulled in so many directions. I appreciate tremendously hearing from people every month about what’s going on.”


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