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Mon April 18, 2011
Reporter rides along with cops in Michigan's "Murdertown"
"We ain't cops anymore. We're librarians. We take reports. We don't fight crime."
That's what officer Steve Howe told New York Times reporter Charlie LeDuff.
LeDuff rode along with Howe and wrote about the experience in his Sunday Magazine article "Riding Along With the Cops in Murdertown, U.S.A."
The desperation in Flint is well known. After several years of cuts to vital city services, the city is still looking at a projected budget deficit of $17 million.
LeDuff writes that the sign on the door of Flint's Police Headquarters says it all "Closed weekends and holidays."
LeDuff writes that another sign in town is a lie. He's talking about the sign on an archway that names Flint "Vehicle City."
But the name is a lie. Flint isn’t Vehicle City anymore. The Buick City complex is gone. The spark-plug plant is gone. Fisher Body is gone.
What Flint is now is one of America’s murder capitals. Last year in Flint, population 102,000, there were 66 documented murders. The murder rate here is worse than those in Newark and St. Louis and New Orleans. It’s even worse than Baghdad’s.
The murders in Flint continue to pile up. More than 20 so far this year.
Mayor Dayne Walling held a press conference recently saying "the killings and criminals must be stopped."
But who's going to stop them? LeDuff reports there are only six patrolmen working on a Saturday night in Flint and the city has laid off two-thirds of its police force in the last three years.
Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported that Flint's Public Safety Director Alvern Lock denied "that cuts to Flint’s police department have played a role in the increase in the city’s increase homicide rate."
But when reading LeDuff's piece, you have to wonder.
He sees the computer screen in the patrolman's car that shows how long it's taken officers to follow-up on reported crimes:
- a kidnapping call that is more than six hours old
- home-invader call is two hours old
- “man with a gun” call is 90-minutes old
Officer Howe says it can be worse:
“Sometimes, we don’t get to a call for two days,” he says. Last fall, an elderly couple called after being held up at gunpoint in their driveway. The police arrived on the scene five hours later.
The night was slow on LeDuff's ride-along until they heard gunfire at a stop at a Seven-Eleven.
"Shots fired" is the call on the radio and that's when Flint's entire police patrol for Saturday night arrives - all six of them.
Flint Struggles with Violent Crime