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Preliminary data show a drop in violent crime in Detroit for 2014

Jan 5, 2015

Screen shot of a crime map for Detroit from 12/29/14 to 1/4/2015 generated by crimemapping.com.
Credit crimemapping.com

Final numbers are expected to be released this week, but early indications show a drop in the rate of violent crime in the city of Detroit.

Based on this December report from the Detroit Police Department, you can see that homicides, robberies, and sexual assaults are down.

Aggravated assaults are up.

Highlighted area shows YTD numbers as of Dec. 7, 2014.
Credit DPD

George Hunter of The Detroit News reports on numbers from December 22, 2014 and finds the trend continued.

"... even taking the current population of about 700,000 into consideration, the homicide rate per 100,000 residents dropped for the third straight year, from 55 in 2012, to 47.5 last year, to 42.9 in 2014."

The drop in violent crime follows a national trend, according to FBI statistics released in November.

FBI UCR chart.
Credit FBI

So what's behind this drop in violent crime?

The Detroit News' George Hunter points out the police department's use of crime stats:

Willie Bell, chairman of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners citizen oversight panel, who retired from the Detroit Police Department in 2003 after 32 years, agreed that targeting specific areas has helped drive down crime.

"We look at the crime stats every week, and looking at crime patterns in terms of deployment appears to be working," he said.

Previous Detroit police chiefs, including incoming Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Ralph Godbee, also used a data-driven approach to crime fighting, but Craig has put a heavier emphasis on the model.

But other experts say it's hard to pinpoint just what is behind these drops. The Washington Post's Reid Wilson recently wrote about the drop in the murder rate for the U.S.' major cities.

Wilson quotes one crime stats expert, James Fox from Northeastern University, who lists things like longer prison sentences, a changing drug market, an aging population, and improved community policing strategies.

Fox says decreases like this are the result of many factors, so take what a police chief says with a grain of salt:

“Because the crime drop is being seen in so many places, one should be a bit skeptical of any particular police chief claiming that it is because of what his or her department is doing or any lawmaker claiming that some new legislation is responsible,” Fox said. “While local efforts may contribute, that the pattern is widespread tends to suggest global factors, not so much local initiatives.”