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July 17, 2014
GROSSE POINTE WOODS — "We have a lot of work to do."

With that, councilman Art Bryant summed up the feeling of city officials and residents alike following public comments regarding the city's annual fireworks and the problems that occurred at this year's show.

About 35 people attended Monday night's council meeting, and along with the council, heard a preliminary report by city administrator Skip Fincham that focused on the seriousness of what occurred the night of June 29.

According to Fincham, 1,500 to 2,000 young people, many of whom were identifiable gang members from two different gangs, gathered on Parcells field for no other reason than to disrupt the event. The youths ranged in age from 13 to 17, and at least one gang was identified as coming from Detroit.

Fincham said he has spoken with the FBI and a representative of the Detroit Crime Com-mission, who told him the two gangs are rivals and each gang shares information via social media about where and when they will meet.

"One gang is well-known to the crime commission, and they are organized and they carry guns," Fincham reported. "Without a doubt many were armed that night."

Fincham declined to name the gangs involved, saying he did not want to give them any publicity.

Preliminary reports released by the department of public safety said that 13 fights were reported that night, but no arrests were made on the field.

One arrest, for disorderly conduct, was made across the street at the Mobil gas station.

City officials have said the reason there were no arrests was because no one involved in the fights wanted to press charges. They also said the city lacked the ability to arrest that many juveniles, as they would have had to hold the juveniles until a parent or guardian arrived to pick them up.

"This was not a minor incident," said Mayor Robert Novitke. "The fireworks were all about a sense of community, but that is not our focus anymore. Public safety is."

Director of Public Safety Andrew Pazuchowski estimated the crowd on Parcells Field to be about 10,000 people, and approximately 95 police officers were on duty that night, including officers from the other Grosse Pointes, the Wayne County Sheriff's department, Hamtramck and reserve officers.

"Our officers did an excellent job that night," Pazuchowski said, "but to go forward, we would need a lot more officers."

According to Novitke, several of those officers from other departments who were working the event have said they would not return next year.

One resident told the council that he had spoken with a police officer who told him there had been only twice in his career that he had been scared at work, "and this was one of them."

Business owner Dan Curis told the council he had to close his Big Boy restaurant at Mack and Vernier early over concerns for the safety of his employees.

"I used to keep the restaurant open, and people would come in after the show, but this year I had to close early when we started getting kids coming in, walking on booths and using the restrooms," he said. "I was concerned for my employees. I told them to lock up. The police then had to come to break up a fight in my parking lot."

Several residents spoke in support of continuing the fireworks, but with tighter controls, including requiring park passes, enforcing a curfew or even moving the fireworks to the city's Lake Front Park.

Most asked the city to not cancel the fireworks.

"To cancel would be a big mistake," one resident told the council. "To give into the thugs, to back down, would be a mistake."

However, one resident asked if all the problems created this year made the show worth it.

"It's insane not to consider cancelling them," she said. "There are fireworks all over. I'm totally against having them continue the way they were."

Several residents told the council the fireworks had long been a family tradition, and urged the council to find a way to continue the show even if that meant moving them to Lake Front Park.

Novitke said the city would continue to gather information before a decision is made.

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