Tracy Perry purchased his first income property in 1995. Over the next two decades, the 51-year-old retired Detroit police officer has acquired several others, all surrounding Brewer Elementary School, two blocks west of Denby High School. That wasn’t his original plan, but it has turned out to be strategic.
With the support of Life Remodeled beginning the transformation of Skinner Park next week and an expected 10,000 volunteers attacking blight on 300 blocks and remodeling more than 50 homes near Denby schools this August, Tracy is getting a boost to the efforts of East Side Unity, the community organization he leads.
“I think it was around the first of the year that I heard they were coming,” Tracy said of Life Remodeled. “I’m going to work with them. I’ve been praying for help.”
But Tracy has done more than pray. He has worked with the police to thwart “the B&E crews, and now they’re gone (because of) the police department and God, they’re gone.”
And Tracy didn’t just buy the homes in Denby. He carefully selected tenants to rent them, creating a community within a community, neighbors watching out for each other and for those who would threaten to worsen an already bad situation in much of Denby. Each of his homes has a video camera strategically placed outside that forms a shopping mall-style surveillance network.
“Buy a house and put a strong family in it. That’s the most effective thing we’ve done,” Tracy said.
Before his retirement after 26 years from the Detroit Police in 2012, Tracy worked throughout the city as a canine officer. For two years in the 1990s, he was assigned to Denby High. He saw the neighborhood’s decline and since retiring has helped to stabilize the community. The connections he had in Denby as a police officer and a community leader became “very important friendships.”
But that leaves the question of why. Why is he still in Denby?
“I believe it’s the Lord’s will that I stay there and help,” Tracy said. “The Lord is the reason why I am doing what I’m doing.”