DETROIT — Advocates, defense attorneys and their clients will share data showing a 300 percent spike in arrests for carrying a concealed weapon (CCW) during the pandemic, and an extreme racial disparity in the prosecution of these cases. Prosecution for CCW-only arrests has surged 205 percent for Black people in Wayne County since March 2020, while prosecutions of non-Black people decreased by eight percent for the same 16-month period, according to data from Neighborhood Defender Service of Detroit (NDS). NDS and coalition partners will call on Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to cease prosecutions of CCW cases that data show to be racially biased.
The data, reported this evening by WXYZ and Michigan Radio, expose a dramatic, racialized shift in enforcement and charging practices by the Detroit Police Department (DPD) and the Wayne County Prosecutor Office (WCPO) during the pandemic. The data show:
- Arrests for CCW-only charges quadrupled since the start of the pandemic. CCW arrests have more than doubled across most areas of the city, the rise is especially concentrated in the Corktown, Downtown, and Greektown neighborhoods, where arrests are up almost 700 percent.
- Prosecution for CCW-only arrests has surged 205 percent for Black people in Wayne County since March 2020, while prosecutions of non-Black people declined eight percent for the same 16-month period, according to NDS data.
- 70 percent of the people arrested and charged legally obtained and owned their guns. These legal gun owners are usually accused of not properly storing their guns while driving and are not charged with any other crime.
Advocates say these arrests do not make Detroit safer, and are alarmed by the racial disparity in who is stopped, arrested and prosecuted. They have urged the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate this disparate impact. The increase in arrests and prosecutions for CCW-only charges have clogged the courts, contributing to a slowdown of the entire legal system, which jeopardizes the court’s ability to ensure the constitutional right to a speedy trial.
- Press conference: Wednesday, January 12th at 12 PM
- Zoom (please click link to register): https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_OUynQISSRky3nMFWLq9bJA
Who: Speakers at the press conference include:
- Chantá Parker, Managing Director, Neighborhood Defender Service of Detroit
- Mark Fancher, Racial Justice Project of the ACLU of Michigan
- Nakia Wallace, Detroit Will Breathe
- James King, Cochran Law Firm
- Jeffery Edison, National Conference of Black Lawyers
- Arni Chambers, Wayne County Criminal Defense Association
- NDS clients
What: Data from the court system, publicly-available arrest data, and data from Neighborhood Defender Service (NDS) together paint a picture of a legal system targeting Black Detroiters for arrest and prosecution. The volume of these prosecutions is slowing the legal system to a crawl.
Those accused are residents not charged with any other crime, which advocates say underlines that these prosecutions are not about preventing gun violence. Instead, they insist that arrest and charging practices amount to “Stop and Frisk” on the streets of Detroit, targeting Black drivers for arrest and prosecution en masse.
Arrests for CCW-only offenses have exploded since the pandemic. Between January 1, 2018 and March 2020, DPD arrested an average of 256 people on CCW-only charges per quarter. That number has roughly quadrupled since the pandemic began, to 1017 arrests for CCW-only per quarter. The arrest rate for CCW-only offenses has more than doubled in every area of the city, but the rise is especially concentrated in the midtown, downtown, and Greektown neighborhoods, where enforcement is up almost 700 percent.
These offenses are non-violent in nature — those accused allegedly committed technical violations in how they store or carry their gun. Police in these cases will commonly pull Detroiters over on a pretextual stop, like a failure to signal or tinted windows, and immediately ask if there is a gun in the car before even asking for license and registration. If the gun is stored in any way improperly – for instance if the gun is in a locked glove box instead of a locked case, or if the case isn’t stored in the trunk – then the driver is arrested and charged with a felony. Based on an analysis of public defender case data, approximately 70 percent of the guns in question are legally-owned.
The spike in arrests has coincided with a surge in prosecutions. Before the pandemic, roughly six percent of cases charged by the WCPO in the 3rd Circuit Court were CCW-only charges. In August 2021, that number stood at nearly 30 percent – around the same time that Kym Worthy lamented the “inhumane” caseload her staff decided to prosecute.
NDS represents people in 25 percent of the felony cases filed in Wayne County. Among NDS’ caseload, Black people are the overwhelming majority of people subjected to these CCW-only prosecutions. Since March 11, 2020, NDS’ referral rate for Black clients facing CCW-only charges has risen 205 percent; the referral rate for all non-Black clients facing the same charge decreased by 8 percent. Today, 32 out of every 33 CCW-only prosecutions in Detroit are Black people, according to Third Circuit Court data.
Beyond the racial bias, the deluge of new, CCW-only prosecutions has created a backlog of over 3800 cases in the 3rd Circuit Court. The 36th District Court was forced to establish two additional dockets to handle CCW-only charges, and the Third Circuit Court has set up an annex staffed by 7 civil judges working out of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center. Despite the additional court resources the Court has spent handling this influx of cases, the speed with which it handles cases lags woefully behind. Michigan law provides that people accused of a crime have a day in court within two weeks of arraignment. Before the pandemic, NDS clients usually had their first hearing within the week. Since July 2021, the average wait for NDS’ CCW-only clients has been over three months. This delay extends across the legal system, jeopardizing the court’s ability to meet people’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.
These prosecutions are the sole discretion of Kym Worthy and the WCPO. Advocates are calling on her to drop all CCW-only prosecutions.
Sam McCann, Communications Specialist, NDS
Phone: (212) 316-7399