Green Light Black Futures Community Safety Survey: Report and Booklet

Digital Color Booklet

Printable Booklet (black and white)

In October of 2018, the Detroit chapter of the national organization Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) launched a campaign to challenge the expansion of police surveillance under Project Green Light, the city’s public-private surveillance partnership. The campaign eventually evolved into Green Light Black Futures (GLBF), a Black-centered and queer led coalition committed to challenging the use of hyper-surveillance, over-policing, and facial recognition technology across Detroit. Between 2019 and 2021, GLBF built a coalition of local and national organizations, individuals, and community members who mobilized toward building safety, justice, and a culture of abolition across Detroit.

From 2019 to 2021, GLBF members designed and disseminated the Community Safety Survey. The survey gathered opinions on safety and surveillance, documented community members’ experiences with Project Green Light, and collected people’s understanding of safety throughout Detroit’s neighborhoods. For the past two years, members of the GLBF research team have continued conducting research, analyzing data, interviewing community members, and holding listening sessions to ensure that findings from the Safety Survey were substantiated and made publicly available.

This full report We Want Safety Not Surveillance: What Safety Means and What Residents Want, includes the survey’s data alongside analysis of local political contexts, histories of surveillance, and traditions of resistance to pervasive policing in Detroit, as well as community-driven recommendations for how we can move forward. Besides uplifting the knowledge, opinions, and expertise of Detroiters, the report foregrounds community members’ understandings of safety and concerns about surveillance, which has not been comprehensively incorporated in past evaluations of Project Green Light by the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners and the Detroit City Council.

Recently published op-eds from members of the researchers who co-authored this project:
Detroit is at a crossroads about safety and surveillance, City Council must choose the right path (Detroit Metro Times)

Building Black futures by knowing what keeps us safe: A report on the Green Light Black Futures Community Safety Survey (Riverwise Magazine)

ShotSpotter profits off fears of gun violence (Detroit Metro Times)

This report was prepared by a small team of researchers who were members of the Green Light Black Futures research working group during its operation, a sub-group of the coalition’s Communication, Action, and Research and Education (CARE) Team. The writing and research of this booklet were collaboratively completed by Rae Baker, Peter Blackmer, Alex Jiahong Lu, Rebecca Smith, and PG Watkins. Rae Baker is a member of Urban Praxis Workshop.

Acknowledgements

The work of challenging police violence and, by extension, resisting the pervasive surveillance of Black and brown neighborhoods always starts in communities, and has been ongoing in Detroit for decades. The fight against police brutality and the evolving technologies of policing is a central pillar of the Black Radical Tradition that must be informed and led by the experiences of communities who are most deeply impacted by policing and criminalization. 

The authors of this report want to acknowledge the labor, creativity, and leadership of everyone who contributed to the Green Light Black Futures coalition while it was active, especially in the coalition’s dedication to political education work and the creation and dissemination of the Community Safety Survey that is featured in this report.

We thank the organizers and activists who contributed statements or interviews to this report, including Shea Howell, Philip Mayor, Rodd Monts, David Robinson, Eric Williams, and Brian Silverstein. We also thank Piper Carter, Dr. Gloria Aneb House, Nancy Parker, Myrtle Thompson-Curtis, Kim Sherrobi, Amanda Hill, Rodd Monts, Angel McKissick, PG Watkins, and Rumi Weaver for their participation in listening sessions and feedback that helped shape this report.