DETROIT - Thousands of people signed up to be Local 4 "Detroit Defenders" to be the eyes and ears to dangerous situations that can lead to unnecessary violence in the city.
Viewers told the Local 4 Defenders to come to Cass Tech High School with hidden cameras, and the Defenders did and found a disturbing problem they thought was taken care of more than a decade ago.
Hidden cameras rolled after school was out for the day, showing viewers how drug dealers, heroin addicts and drug paraphernalia stand directly between kids going from the classroom to their bus.
"The police, where are they?" asked senior Kayla Alexander.
Kids keep their head down and don't make eye contact as they make their way to the school bus, because in the Detroit's Cass Tech High School, drug dealers are free to sell heroin on the streets in broad day light all day, every day, right in front of hundreds of school children.
"If the bus doesn't come fast enough they'll attack you, interrogate you with questions, make you feel uncomfortable," said senior MaKayla Nixon.
The drug addicts line up to get their fix, dealers collect and count their cash, and students are given a dangerous front-row seat to a street education of Detroit's drug underworld that may enrage every citizen of the city.
"Even if you walk to the store for a snack they'll holler out, 'Hey, sweetheart!' or try and get you to come over and it's kind of scary," said Nixon.
Just watch for half an hour and you can see exactly how it works: customers pull up on Henry Street and place an order. Runners go to a hiding spot where they store the drugs. Guys on bikes make sure no police cars are driving by. Hundreds of deals a day, thousands of dollars trading hands and all under the windows of Cass Tech High School.
The kids know whats going on, but their parents don't.
"I have never heard anything from the school in regards to any drugs being sold near or around the school," said Charyn, the parent of a Cass Tech student.
Parents now want to know why.
"I worry about the kids, our daughters, the kids who are watching that," said Charyn. "The drug dealers recruiting our kids to sell drugs in the neighborhood or in the school."
The Defenders called Detroit police.
"We're on Second and Henry by Cass Tech. A bunch of kids are getting out of school and there's a bunch of drug dealers right on Henry Street," the Defenders told Detroit police. "The drug dealers are milling around, selling drugs right in the middle of the street."
The police never showed up. The Detroit Defender who tipped the Defenders off called police dozens of times to report blatant drug dealing in a so-called drug-free school zone. The dealers are supposed to be afraid of the extra jail time for dealing near a school.
"Isn't it a drug-free school zone, or supposed to be?" asked Nixon.
Experts said it's just a matter of time before someone gets shot. They don't want it to be a student.
"I don't care if you've got to call that number every single day," said Local 4 expert Tom Berry. "You tell them they're selling dope at Cass and Henry."
Berry is a retired Detroit officer who knows all about too few officers for too many crimes, but the seasoned detective says police cannot, under any circumstances, turn their heads to such an obvious danger to so many children.
"Once they get the message that they're not gonna be able to sell dope here, they're gonna get out of the way and get away from the school," said Berry.
If drug deals going down in broad daylight right in front of Cass Tech High School sounds familiar, viewers may remember the Local 4 Defenders' investigation from 2001.
A dozen years ago hidden cameras caught dealers selling and addicts using right in front of kids. Remember Red the homeless man with the American flag? He begged for your money then used it to buy and shoot up heroin on Henry Street right in front of Cass Tech High School.
"This is supposed to be a school of excellence," said a Cass Tech student in 2001, "where kids of excellence learn in."
Police were so mad in 2001 they raided Henry Street the very next day, arresting dealers and users, and promised to give the streets back to the students.
A young prosecutor named Mike Duggan said it wouldn't hapenn on his watch.
"Right now we're very focused on prosecuting the people of Henry Street," Duggan said in 2001. "Minimum two years in prison."
Today Cass Tech has a new school with new students, but sadly the same old drug problem: dangerous open-drug sales in broad daylight in front of hundreds of school children.
"I'm pretty sure if they told Mayor Duggan he'd do something about it," said Jarome White, the parent of a Cass Tech student.
The Defenders reached out to Detroit's new mayor, Mike Duggan, who aggressively went after this a dozen years ago as prosecutor, and to new Police Chief James Craig, who has vowed the new Detroit Police Department will not look the other way when it comes to crime.
Jennifer Mrozowski, the executive director of the Office of Communications for Detroit Public Schools, released the following statement to the Defenders:
"The safety and security of our students and staff is a key priority for Detroit Public Schools. While crime on our school campuses has seen a significant reduction over the last year or so with overall on-campus incidents down 10 percent, and serious on-campus incidents reduced by as much as 61 percent, we know that the areas around our schools present a safety concern for our parents, students and staff. The DPS Police Department, which is led by Chief Rod Grimes, has implemented 16 safety initiatives such as yellow-jacket patrols, walking school bus, as well as general neighborhood patrols, in 14 hot spots throughout the district to ensure that our schools and their surrounding campuses are safe and welcoming for our students and their families. Cass has a dedicated safety personnel in the school and our police officers patrol around all schools, including Cass, on a regular basis before, during and after school."
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