The selection of Anthony Holt to become the Wayne State University Chief of Police was hardly something that just kind of happened. Because anyone who knows anything about the steady progress of Midtown over the years knows that there has always been somewhat of a plan, a method to the metamorphosis. Maybe it wasn’t all sketched out from beginning to end, but those who were determined for the Cass Corridor to be transformed into what it is today have been focused on this eventuality for decades, and the selection of Holt, who by any measure has been a remarkable success story since his appointment in 2008, was clearly part of the blueprint for Midtown’s continued success.
Because it’s impossible to create a successful neighborhood if it is not perceived as a safe neighborhood. As someone who views community policing from a full 360-degree spectrum – and as a very qualified individual who clearly loves the job – Holt was a natural selection as someone who could help deliver on the vision of what Midtown could become. A native Detroiter and son of a church minister, who himself attended Wayne State University, Wayne State University Police Chief Anthony Holt has deep roots in the Midtown/Cass Corridor area, that stretch back at least 50 years. His first job as a college student which helped him pay his tuition was working the 3-11 pm shift at the full-service Oklahoma gas station that used to be located on the Southeast corner of 2nd and Alexandrine just a few steps from where the El Moore is currently located. His address at the time was 700 Prentis.
Roughly 40 years later, Holt was named as the new WCU Chief of Police. The following, in his own words, are his recollections of what followed:
“At that time I believe we had 21 officers and although we responded outside of campus we pretty much stayed in campus. Since I became chief, the WSU president at that time met with [representatives from] major local institutions, including Henry Ford Hospital, DMC, Wayne State, and Midtown Inc. with Sue Mosey. The goal was to increase the population in Midtown by 15,000 people by the year 2015. When I say 15,000 people, they wanted residents in this area who went to school, who work, who live and play in the area. They wanted a population who was gonna move down here, that worked in close proximity, downtown, the cultural center and Midtown. When they got off work, they didn’t want them to shoot off to the suburbs. They wanted it to be a walkable community with businesses.
“So they did a survey. They said ‘what would prevent you from coming into this area? What would prevent you from buying a house, buying a condo? Starting a business down here? Going to school down here? And what was the perception f crime? Actually the perception of crime is more crucial than the actual crime itself. Because if people don’t think it’s safe, they’re gonna spread that word, “Don’t come down here”. And that affects everything. The kids say “I wanna go to Wayne Stae’, but the parents say ‘Oh no.’ It affects people who want to open a business, it affects people who want to come to a restaurant down here.
“They (the heads of those institutions) gave me the authority so I can make a difference. So since that time I increased the department to over 60 officers. I tripled the size of the police force. I extended our boundaries, and I brought a different method of policing called COMSTAT. It’s the broken glass theory; we start with the small problems and work our way up. It’s basically data driven.
“When I first started there I invited all of the security agencies; Detroit Police, Wayne County Sheriff, the private security business people. When I first started maybe about 8 people showed up. Right now I have over 40 people who come. It’s data-driven. I look at all of the statistics in Midtown. I could tell you when a robbery occurs, what time it occurred, what the description of the perp looked like who did it. So when we first stated I saw we had six robberies in a six-week period. From Woodward and Canfield down to Woodward and Mack. I knew what time they were occurring, how many people were involved, what the profile of the victim looked like. So based on that I had a circle that says on this time and this date, this most likely will happen. So I put plainclothes officers out there, uniformed officers, used technology with cameras. We made 12 arrests that following two weeks.”