When Detroit Police Chief James Craig said recently that armed citizens are a deterrent to crime, a spokesman for one leading gun prohibition lobbying group didn’t care for that at all.

“Our position is, more guns equal more crime,” said Josh Horwitz, director of the Coalition to Stop GunViolence.

But Chief Craig, whose views on citizens fighting back have gotten considerable attention in recent months, has been straightforward.

“Criminals are getting the message that good Detroiters are armed and will use that weapon,” said Craig, in remarks quoted by the Detroit News. “I don’t want to take away from the good work our investigators are doing, but I think part of the drop in crime, and robberies in particular, is because criminals are thinking twice that citizens could be armed.

“I can’t say what specific percentage is caused by this, but there’s no question in my mind it has had an effect,” Craig insisted.

According to the newspaper, the Motor City has seen a 37 percent decline in robberies this year from the same period in 2013. There have also been 22 percent fewer commercial and residential burglaries and 30 percent fewer reports of carjackings. Chief Craig credited that decline to improved police work and the strong possibility that criminals are re-thinking the idea of trying to victimize a private citizen who may be armed.

Craig started his career in law enforcement in Detroit, rising through the ranks as he moved around the country. When he was forced to relocate due to department layoffs in Detroit, he went to Los Angeles in 1981 and spent the next 28 years with that agency, with experience as a patrol sergeant, lieutenant, captain and he was involved in various investigations. He earned a reputation for using innovative strategies to fight crime in some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods, according to one biography.

In 2009, he was hired as the police chief of Portland, Maine. It was during his time there that he reportedly came to the realization that legally armed citizens were not a threat to anyone, and may even be a deterrent to the criminal element.

From Portland, he moved on to head the Cincinnati Police Department in 2011, staying there for about two years before the position of chief opened up in his hometown of Detroit. At the time, he declared, “I’ve come home.”

He brought along a lifetime of experience from all those other agencies, obviously realizing that citizens exercising their right to bear arms is a fairly normal activity in most parts of the country.

Last year, when gangs of thugs were engaging in what became known as “the knockout game,” in which one perpetrator would walk up behind a stranger and sucker-punch the victim – man or woman – in an attempt to knock them out, Chief Craig told WJR radio, “I think folks, the people who would engage in that foolishness, probably know that there’s a number of CPL (Concealed Pistol License) holders running round the streets of in Detroit…Probably not a real good idea.”

What has been a good idea is giving criminals the impression that a new era has started in the Motor City, and that when citizens fight back, the police chief will not treat them like criminals.

Other metropolitan police executives just might take a lesson from that.