— A 50-minute response time to 911 calls. It's been reduced to eight minutes for priority calls.
— Twelve-hour shifts and "virtual' police precincts, stations that closed at 4 p.m. — two unpopular cost-cutting moves that Craig scuttled.
— Bulletproof vests that were no longer effective. (They've been replaced.) And dilapidated cars with nearly 200,000 miles on their odometers. (Last summer, the business community donated about $8 million for a new fleet of 100 police cruisers along with ambulances.)
Add to all that the stress of seeking justice for the victims of the violent incidents that have come to epitomize the Motor City: the Good Samaritan shot in the eye while trying to help two women robbery victims. The 91-year-old man who was victim to a carjacking. (There were about 700 carjackings in the city last year. In October, Craig may have been a potential target himself when a man approached his unmarked cruiser at a stoplight. The chief didn't wait around to find out the stranger's intentions.)
Craig says when he took over, he had three goals: reduce violence, improve morale and restore credibility. The department, he says, is now on the mend and more accountable. "The people here deserve better," he says, "and they're getting better."
He points to a 7 percent drop in violent crime in 2013 from the previous year. And a 14 percent decline in criminal homicides in the same period — from 386 in 2012 to 333 last year. Encouraging as that is, it is precisely the same number of homicides that occurred in New York City, which has a population almost a dozen times larger than Detroit's.
Over seven months, Craig has been a high-profile presence, holding news conferences, appearing on radio and TV. He recently made headlines when he declared more armed citizens — law-abiding ones, of course __ could help make Detroit safer. He says he learned that lesson as chief in Portland, Maine. (He also headed the department in Cincinnati.)
Craig also has led a series of large-scale raids in crime-ravaged neighborhoods. News crews have been at his heels, chronicling his every comment, whether it's describing a raid as a "party" (meaning law-abiding citizens can celebrate) or publicly apologizing that the crackdowns didn't come sooner
Many residents have cheered the raids. That's no surprise. But something else is: A few of those arrested have actually offered thanks.
Why would someone be grateful to be nabbed by the police?
"They understand it's time for someone to come in and put an end to this. There's no secret," says Elvin Barren, commander of the organized crime division. After a raid one handcuffed suspect, talking with a TV reporter, endorsed the work of Craig and his department: "Keep up the good work," he declared. "Keep my family safe."
Among rank-and-file officers, there are deep-seated anxieties, both about the city's finances and their own.
They fear they're too short-staffed to adequately protect a city spanning about 140 square miles. Craig has announced plans to hire 150 new officers to shore up the 2,300-member force.
They worry about hazards posed by the thousands of abandoned homes, whether it's falling through a rotted floor or hunting a suspect hiding in the inky darkness.
And they're especially unhappy with the pay cut. Some say they're annoyed they have to work second or third jobs to pay the bills while others charged with turning the city around are bringing home six-figure salaries.
"To say morale is up is a falsehood," says Scott Barrick, a second-generation officer who spent 19 years on the streets before recently becoming a full-time police union official. "It seems like every time we turn around they want us to do more and they want to give us less. You can't help but think, 'Why am I doing this every day?' ... You feel like the entire burden of repairing the city is falling on our shoulders and quite frankly over the last year, it has."
He remembers a fight that erupted last year after a nightclub closed in the pre-dawn hours and a crowd spilled into the streets. At first, Barrick says, there were just six officers to subdue hundreds. "We're calling for backup but no one is coming there is no one to help," he says. Eventually, four others arrived to quell the disturbance.