With the historic Detroit bankruptcy filing, there has been much talk about money, about taxes, about shrinking revenue and rising legacy costs.
But two of our guests on Stateside today strongly believe all of those "dollar-based" conversations overlook one of the biggest reasons people leave Detroit and why people don't want to live in Detroit. And that is crime.
According to Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr's report to the city's creditors, Detroit's violent crime rate is five times the national average. And it takes Detroit police an average of 58 minutes to respond to a call, where the national average is 11 minutes.
Those harsh realities are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
How will these chronic, stubbornly high levels of crime affect Detroit's recovery and what can be done going forward to make Detroit a safer place to live and work?
Carl Taylor, Professor of Sociology at Michigan State University, and Jeff Hadden, the former deputy editorial page director for the Detroit News, joined us today.
“It’s like background noise,” said Hadden. “We have had a constant drumbeat for years and years and years of 325-340 homicides per year, a higher than average crime rate, and people just get inured to it. But it tears the fabric of neighborhoods. It tears away the livability of the city.”
Taylor wrote a guest opinion piece for the Detroit Free Press about what he called “urban terrorism,” and he received a lot of criticism for using that term.
“I’m talking about being able to function as a normal person... I’m talking about the intimidation that goes on many times, the fear,” he clarified.
He went on to say that mental health and unemployment are big variables in the high Detroit crime rate, as well as problems with the education system.
“Detroit is not the only community. I think the poor part of America is really revolting in a way that people don’t understand and they think they don’t care,” said Taylor. “You can say Detroit can drop off into the river, but it’s going to cost the state of Michigan and America a lot of money. It would make more sense to invest in education.”
Both Taylor and Hadden feel that currently there are too many students who are excluded from educational opportunities, and it is these students who feed into the high crime rate.
Looking ahead to the time after Detroit’s bankruptcy filing is over and after Kevyn Orr leaves, both Taylor and Hadden believe the crime issue should be tackled by focusing on staffing police departments and improving education.
-Michelle Nelson, Michigan Radio Newsroom
Listen to the full interview above.