Inventorchris / Creative Commons

African-American drivers are more than twice as likely to get pulled over than Caucasian drivers in the City of Kalamazoo. That’s according to a study the city released this week.

The study only looked at how the department deals with traffic stops. The data covers stops between March 2012 and February 2013.

Flickr user Still Burning / Creative Commons

It was 1998 when Michigan's lawmakers voted to approve tougher "lock 'em up policies."

Some may argue whether that made Michigan any safer, but one thing cannot be argued: Michigan leads the nation in average time served by inmates: 4.3 years. That's 48% higher than the national average of 2.9 years. That's according to a 2012 national study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

And these tough sentencing guidelines are exacting a cost from the state's collective "wallet." Michigan's corrections budget currently exceeds $2 billion.

The state sentencing guidelines have not been reviewed for 15 years.

In response, the Michigan Law Review Commission has launched a bipartisan review to figure out just where Michigan stands when compared to the rest of the nation, and where reform might be needed.

Dustin Dwyer

Last month, a disagreement on a residential street in Muskegon turned into a massive gun battle. Six men were armed. Dozens of shots sprayed in all directions.

At the house directly behind the gunfight, three children played on a porch.

And one woman ran into the line of fire to try to save them.

Today we begin a three-part series about the incident, and look at how the dramatic rise of gun crimes in Muskegon is putting more kids at risk.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Communities across Michigan will be marking National Night Out this week.

National Night Out is intended to encourage people to get out of their homes and meet their neighbors.

Flint is holding a community party downtown today. 

Flint community leaders hope this week’s National Night Out will help them battle the city’s crime problem.   Flint has recorded three dozen homicides this year.  

Mayor Dayne Walling hopes events like National Night Out will help local police and neighborhood watch groups work more closely together.

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.

Google Maps

With all the problems in Flint and Detroit, it's no surprise we see these cities end up on "most dangerous cities" lists.

The lists are generated using violent crime statistics from the FBI's annual "Uniform Crime Reports."

But all cities have neighborhoods prone to crime and many other neighborhoods that are not. They are safe, for the most part.

Location, Inc. says they took data from the FBI and other "exclusive data" developed by the company to rank the safety of specific neighborhoods around the country. 

Earlier this month, they released their list, Top 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in America, on their website NeighborhoodScout. There are six Michigan neighborhoods on the list. The top three are in Detroit.

(Click on the street names below to see a map of the neighborhoods.)

  1. Detroit (West Chicago / Livernois Avenue)
  2. Detroit (Mack Avenue / Helen Street)
  3. Detroit (Gratiot Avenue / Rosemary)
  4. Detroit (Wyoming Street / Orangelawn Street)
  5. Saginaw (East Holland Avenue / East Genesee Avenue)
  6. Flint (Chambers Street / Stonegate Drive)

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr named former Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig as Detroit's new Chief of Police.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett attended the press conference, where Orr announced that Craig will begin July 1, 2013:

The new police chief of Michigan's largest city says he's committed to reducing violence and making the Detroit Police Department a premier police agency.

This announcement followed the plan that Orr outlined in his 45-day report on Detroit's economic status. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Fraudulent loan activity declined slightly in Michigan at the end of last year.

Kroll Factual Data checks loan applications for phony buyers, attempts to misrepresent the value of homes and other fraudulent information.

Kroll president Rod Bazzani says there's been a surge in home loan refinancing, which may explain the decline.   He says refinancing more than doubled last year.

“When you understand that statistic, you realize you’re going to have much less fraud in a refinance environment than you would in a purchase loan environment,” says Bazzani.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - An insurance company says more than a dozen people operated an arson-for-profit ring in Flint that collected more than $2 million over two decades.

The Flint Journal reports State Farm Insurance says in a lawsuit in Detroit federal court that fires purposely were started at homes owned or rented by members of the group. The insurer says insurance claims were filed to receive thousands of dollars in insurance payouts.

No criminal charges have been filed against any of those named the case.

The case has sparked counter lawsuits by some of the defendants. Six of those named in the State Farm lawsuit have settled, including Flint-based public adjustment company Allied and Associates and Gary Lappin, its president. He calls the case "witch hunt."

State Farm isn't discussing the case.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There are seven new police officers patrolling the streets of Flint. They were hired as part of a public safety millage approved by Flint voters last November.

The millage is expected to generate $5.3 million this year, but what's going to happen in future years as the population keeps shrinking and property values drop?

With the recent hiring of seven officers, the Flint Police Department now has 124 officers. That is down from an estimated 350 officers when times were better.

Will these new officers help make a dent in Flint's crime rate? Flint is in the unenviable spot near the top of many of the "most violent city" lists.

Kevin Smith is the president of the Flint Police Officer's Association.

He mentioned that the seven new officers won't make a big difference any time soon.  We asked what it would take, in terms of staffing, to make Flint noticeably safer.

To hear the full interview, click the link above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint mayor Dayne Walling says his city must now make a transition to an era of 'reconstruction' after a 'generation of decline.'

Walling told the audience at his ‘State of the City’ address Monday that in order to begin that transition Flint must deal with its crime problem.

Flint had the worst violent crime rate in the nation last year. 

“We have lost too many lives. Too many of our promising youth who were confined to environments that were always dangerous and all too often became deadly,” Walling told his audience.

HeatherHeatherHeather / Creative Commons

There have been nine murders in the last thirty days in Grand Rapids. That’s almost as many as the state’s second largest city sees during an average year. But the community is working on a game plan to fight the violence.

Friday morning about a thousand people gathered at Messiah Missionary Baptist Church. They prayed and they made plans for many smaller meetings over the next 60 days.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A proposed overhaul to Michigan’s public defense system will have to wait until next year for action by the state Legislature.

State lawmakers passed a flurry of bills in their “lame duck” session. But there were a number of high-profile bills that didn’t move at all.

One of those would change the way the state appoints lawyers to people who can’t afford one.

Michigan’s public defense system is considered one of the worst in the country.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says 13 police mini-stations will open throughout the city.

Six of them have opened today, and the rest will be in place by March.

The announcement comes on the day police confirmed the shooting deaths of four people in a home on the east side of Detroit, and a week after the city acknowledged that the number of homicides this year has already has eclipsed the total for 2011.

Each of the mini-stations will be staffed with a permanent officer, a police reservist and a community volunteer.

DETROIT (AP) - Floating paper lanterns will be launched in Detroit's former Chinatown as part of a community-based event.

The Saturday evening event near Wayne State University is dubbed "Illuminating Chinatown." The lanterns made by local artists, designers and university students are set to be launched in a block without working street lights.

Paper lanterns were first used as signaling balloons and now are used in festivals to signify good luck and new beginnings. Organizers say they also intend for them to signal change coming from the hands of the community.

A sketch of the man suspected of random shootings in a four-county area along I-96 in Michigan.

Update Thursday, November 1, 2:00 p.m.

A series of shootings on or near I-96 has Michigan motorists thinking twice about driving the interstate.

A police task force reports 24 confirmed shootings since October 16. Here is a summary of what we've learned since then:

Inventorchris / Creative Commons

Kalamazoo’s Public Safety Department is conducting a study to see if its officers unfairly target racial and ethnic minorities.

The study is not being court ordered, the city isn’t being sued, and there hasn’t been any big incident that sparked the study. Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley says that’s a good thing.

“These types of issues can bring a lot of emotion… and it makes it a lot more difficult to talk reasonably and to talk productively and constructively in how we move forward,” Hadley said.

Hadley says the department wants to try to avoid problems and they’re hoping the study will help.

“Spending money on this type of study I think is really an investment into our relationship with the community; and how important they are in how we operate as a public safety department and how we keep this city safe,” Hadley said.

DETROIT (AP) — The new Detroit Crime Commission is getting a $1 million federal grant to help fight crime on the city's east side.

The money will be used to develop a "data-driven approach" to identify issues fueling crime. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy says she's putting an assistant prosecutor in place to concentrate on Detroit's east side.

U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Mich., will present a symbolic check to the Detroit Crime Commission on Tuesday. The commission is a nonprofit group formed last year to act as a liaison between the public and law enforcement agencies.

It is staffed by retired law enforcers and led by Andrew Arena, the former head of the Detroit FBI.

southernfried / MorgueFile

Organized gangs that steal from retail stores in Michigan are not only driving up prices, they're putting the public at risk. 

A screenshot from the cell phone video which shows Milton Hall being shot and killed by Saginaw Police officers.

Earlier this month it was announced the Saginaw police officers who shot and killed a homeless, mentally ill man would not face criminal charges. 49-year-old Milton Hall was killed by Saginaw Police July 1, after police say he refused to drop a knife. Six officers fired several dozen shots at Hall.

Now we hear that some officers will be disciplined internally by the Saginaw Police Department.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

The Flint Journal reports this morning about three killings over the weekend, bring the total number of homicides to 50:

Three homicides in as many days has brought the city's total to 50 slayings for the year.

The latest was a shooting and hit and run that left one man dead...

The city didn't record its 50th homicide last year until late October.

In 2010, the city set a record for the number of homicides at 66. That's in a city with a shrinking population.

The Detroit News followed a standoff police had with a gunman in West Bloomfield Township overnight. West Bloomfield Township Officer Patrick O'Rourke was killed.

MLive reports the Pastor of a church with around 750 members confessed to turning in receipts for reimbursement that were never approved.

More from MLive:

Current Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates is in the spotlight after the shooting that took place this morning. Oates was Chief of Police and Safety Services Administrator for the City of Ann Arbor for four years before he left for his job in Aurora in 2005. Prior to that, Oates served in the New York Police Department for 21 years.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint business and civic leaders sat down with Governor Snyder today to discuss possible solutions to the city’s problems.

The closed-door session focused on crime, education, economic development and other urban issues.

Marcus Obal / creative commons

Some forensic science often used in police investigations is being called into question.

PBS' Frontline did an excellent series calling out the questionable science behind many arson cases.

In "Death by Fire" they showed how testimony from so-called fire experts led to the convictions of people for arson.

In one case, a potentially innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham, was put to death in Texas based on questionable fire evidence.

Did Texas execute an innocent man?

Several controversial death penalty cases are currently under examination in Texas and in other states, but it's the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham -- convicted for the arson deaths of his three young children -- that's now at the center of the national debate.

Today, we hear the story of David Lee Gavitt from the Detroit Free Press. Gavitt, from Ionia, was convicted in 1986 of first-degree felony murder for the deaths of his wife and two young daughters in a house fire. He was sentenced to life in prison.

His conviction was overturned and he was released yesterday after spending 26 years in prison.

His first stop, the grave sites of his wife and daughters.

"It was a very emotional scene," said David Moran, a law professor and co-founder of the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, which fought for the release of 54-year-old David Lee Gavitt. Moran said 15-20 of Gavitt's family members also arrived to welcome him home.

Since Gavitt's conviction in 1986, fire science has advanced significantly. A fire science expert, John Lentini, reviewed some of the evidence in Gavitt's case for the Innocence Clinic:

He told the clinic that the burn patterns that had caused investigators to suspect arson weren't caused by an accelerant, like gasoline, but by flashover -- a then-misunderstood phenomenon in which a closed room fills with toxic gases and bursts into flames.

"In light of modern fire science, there is simply not one shred of credible evidence that the fire at the Gavitt residence was intentionally set," Lentini said in a 65-page affidavit the clinic presented last September to Judge Hoseth Kreeger.

As Frontline points out, there are several arson cases around the country being reviewed. And the case of Cameron Todd Willingham has caused experts to re-examine old assumptions:

These include assumptions about fire patterns on floors and v-shaped marks on walls, the identifying characteristics of an accelerant, and what happens to glass windows during a blaze. Gerald Hurst, who wrote a report discrediting the evidence used against Willingham in a last-minute death row appeal, declared: “One might well wonder how anyone could make so many critical errors in interpreting the evidence.”

Lindsey Smith/Michigan Radio

A group of former classmates is using art to try to solve one of Michigan’s most high profile missing person cases.

February 5th 1981 14-year-old Deanie Peters and her mom were watching a wrestling match. It was at a middle school in a suburb outside of Grand Rapids.

Peters told her mom she had to use the restroom before they headed home. 'I’ll be right back,' she said.

But Peters never returned.

Thirty-one years later police still haven’t made an arrest or found her body. Deanie’s little brother Will Peters was six-years-old when she disappeared.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - A Grand Rapids man has agreed to plead guilty to fraud after the government says he collected nearly $400,000 in disability payments despite working at a family business.

A document filed Friday in federal court say Donald Freybler collected the money for 16 years, although he may not be on the hook for the entire $400,000. His plea deal allows him to argue to a judge that some payments were legitimate.

The 53-year-old Freybler admits he worked at a family trophy business and put it in his wife's name and Social Security number to conceal income. He says he greeted customers, took orders and occasionally made trophies and plaques.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The haunting sounds of bagpipes echoed in the halls of the state capital this evening.

Police officers from across the state gathered inside the capital rotunda for the 19th annual  Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service.

The ceremoney honored a half dozen police officers from Michigan or with ties to Michigan who died in the line of duty last year.   Nationwide, 163 law enforcement officers were killed on the job last year.  Already this year, 2 Michigan law enforcement officers have died on the job. 

“The loss of these officers is a testament to the dangers and realities of police work," says Colonel Kristie Kibbey Etue,  the director of the Michigan State Police. 

National Police Week begins May 13th. 


Last week, the identity of "real-life superhero Bee Sting" was revealed at an arraignment.

Now we know that "Bee Sting" is actually Adam Besso of Sterling Heights. 

Besso was arrested after pulling a shotgun on a motorcyclist in a trailer park in Burton, Michigan.

Besso approached the man saying the man's motorcycle was too loud. A struggle ensued and Besso's shotgun discharged. Thankfully, no one was injured.

MLive spoke with Tom Carter, the man who was approached by Besso. Carter told MLive he was surprised when the masked man confronted him in the trailer park:

"I couldn't hear him, so I started to approach him and that's when the gun came out," said Carter, 38, about the incident with Bee Sting.
"As soon as I saw the gun I was thinking I didn't want my kids to get shot."

The use of a gun has not only offended law enforcement, it offended another real-life superhero.