Detroit law enforcement agencies plan to proceed with a joint operation launched last year to combat a surge of freeway shootings in the metro area and across the state.
Law enforcement officials recently met at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters in downtown to announce their plan to relaunch Operation Brison, named after Brison Christian, a 2-year-old child killed in a freeway shooting last year after gang members opened fire on his family’s truck.
Operation Brison, a multi-agency effort focused on deploying more officers on freeways to reduce shootings, was launched on June 17, 2021, days after the deadly shooting that led to Brison’s death.
Police officials said that they have seen an unprecedented rise in freeway shootings since 2020.
According to reports from the Michigan State Police, troopers investigated 67 freeway shootings in 2021, five of which were fatal. The shootings took place on freeways in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. There were at least two freeway shootings every month in these counties.
“This isn’t just a Detroit problem; this is an ‘our problem,’” Detroit Police Chief James White said. “Our freeways are being used as pathways of escape for violence perpetrated not only in Detroit but in our neighboring communities.”
Inkster Police Chief William Ratliff said the operation “has spurred regional cooperation among law enforcement agencies in this area on a level that’s unprecedented.”
Although no freeways run through Inkster, Ratliff said his agency can assist in other ways.
“Not having any freeways in my community, people say, ‘Why would you be involved?’ Well, criminals have to get to the freeways. There are secondary roads. Criminals know when we’re looking for them. This allows us to communicate with Detroit P.D., state police and the other entities in this room,” Ratliff explained.
Officials then held a closed-door meeting to discuss deployment and enforcement strategies.
An important crime-fighting element has been the use of freeway surveillance cameras.
Project Green Light Detroit has been online for several years with high-tech surveillance cameras rolling 24/7 at partnering businesses.
While the Michigan Department of Transportation uses traffic cameras, they lack the capabilities to zoom in and clearly identify cars or license plates. The project’s high-definition cameras and real-time video streaming can help police track down those responsible for the shootings.
“We’re not looking to write a ticket for speeding with cameras on the freeway. We’re talking about cameras that can save lives if someone uses a weapon on a freeway, which puts every single person, every family at risk in every community, not just Detroit,” White said.
The police chief said the cameras are important as witnesses often cannot report a license plate number at the time of a shooting.
“You’re driving 70 to 80 miles an hour on a freeway, you hear a gunshot, you don’t necessarily stop to pause or get the plate and vehicle description you just go into a mode of self-preservation,” White said.
Officials hope to stem the tide of shootings in time for summer.
“It’s my hope that we can reduce these shootings, and that this collaborative effort will result in a safer summer,” White said.