Detroit’s economic collapse has left neighborhoods abandoned across the once-thriving Motor City. Its municipal budget crisis has caused a wide array of funding problems for city services like police protection, meaning citizens are often left on their own to deal with crimes in progress. MSN Money noted that 911 response times for top-priority crimes have been taking up to 58 minutes, leaving Detroit residents with no choice but to look for alternatives when violent criminals attack. This situation recently reached a boiling point when a citizen who called 911 emergency services to report a break-in in progress was placed on hold for over 30 minutes. Detroit Police Chief James Craig has also made comments encouraging residents to arm themselves against the city’s crime wave.
WXYZ-TV ABC 7 Detroit is reporting that local resident Walter Gildersleeve, frustrated with high levels of crime in the largely-abandoned neighborhoods on the city’s west side, has created his own group called Detroit Street Watchers that conducts armed neighborhood watch patrols. Gildersleeve, who has been dubbed “Batman” by a student who saw him patrolling near a school, posts videos of all of his crime-fighting encounters on his YouTube channel. He has a Concealed Pistol License and also open carries when on patrols.
Walter Gildersleeve, while announcing his activities on a loudspeaker to members of the community, described his mission as “making sure no one is in these abandoned houses, taking back our street, our community.” He often checks on abandoned properties on behalf of landlords, keeping an eye out for vandals, squatters, and arsonists, and also works to deter the robberies, murders, car thefts, and assaults that plague the area.
His crime-fighting quest began when he participated in a missing persons search in which the missing young girl’s body was never found. Gildersleeve told WXYZ-TV, “I remember a search a few years ago for a baby girl, Bianca. I got into that search for her. I got real emotional. We never found her, but I never gave up.”
In the above-embedded CNN/WXYZ-TV video coverage, a neighborhood resident named Cathryn said, “We’ve got a real man out here protecting the streets.” When asked if Gildersleeve’s presence made her feel safe, she said, “Yes.”