Detroit crime

Peter Martorano / Flickr

Violent and property crime in Detroit dropped 25% in the first quarter of this year. However, Carl Taylor, a sociology professor at Michigan State University and native Detroiter, says the statistics don’t really reflect what is going on. He added that there's still a lot a crime that's going unreported.

The question Cynthia Canty asked on today’s Stateside was, “What can we do to keep crime declining?”

Taylor said what Detroit needs most is better prevention. Detroit needs more police officers, stronger schools, more jobs, and a closer look at mental health, Taylor says, adding that poverty also has a big impact on crime.

Taylor said that it is possible to keep a steady decline of crime in the city.

“We have to have the citizens, we have to have the resources, and we have to have an attitude change,” Taylor said.

*Listen to full interview in link above.

– Bre’Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom.

For the past year, for the first time in decades, people in the suburbs, in Lansing, and across America are thinking about Detroit.

Everybody has had to face that Detroit is broken, hopelessly in debt, largely a shattered ruin, and that city services, the schools and so much else doesn’t work.

For many years, everyone knew things were bad, but nobody did much about it.

The political class running the city denied the extent of the problem and did not welcome outside intervention. The rest of us mostly said, fine.

Now, however, things are very different.

By now, millions know the story.

Thirteen days ago, on the east side of Detroit, a ten-year-old boy darted in front of a truck driven by a middle-aged tree trimmer named Steven Utash. He couldn’t help hitting the child, whose leg was broken.

When Utash got out to check on the boy, a mob beat him so severely he nearly died. He was in a medically-induced coma for days, and may end up with permanent brain damage.

All that is horrifying enough, but there is one additional terrible detail which is the main reason the story has gotten national attention.

The tree trimmer was white. His assailants were all black. And I can tell you that this is doing more damage to Detroit than a hundred drug murders could have. This may be more devastating to the city than Kwame Kilpatrick ever was. People are used to crooked politicians of all colors, shapes and sizes. Detroit had white mayors who wound up in prison long before Kilpatrick was born.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s crime rate fell slightly in 2013, according to data released by the city’s police department Thursday.

Detroit recorded 333 criminal homicides last year, down from 386 in 2012.

Non-fatal shootings also declined, though there were still well over 1,100 of them.

Overall, violent crime declined by 7%, and property crime was down by the same amount.

It's been a weary, awful November in metro Detroit so far. 

A week ago Saturday, 19-year-old Renisha McBride was shot dead by a 54-year-old white homeowner in Dearborn Heights.

She was killed on his porch. Her family says she was looking for help after her car crashed, more than 2 hours earlier and about six blocks away in Detroit.

Police haven't released the homeowner's name yet. But his attorney says he thought McBride was an intruder, and that the gun went off accidentally. An autopsy confirms she was shot in the face.

So far, he hasn't been arrested. The Wayne County Prosecutor's office announced Monday that it had "begun the warrant review process," but was awaiting more evidence from Dearborn Heights police before deciding on charges.

A successful program that utilizes volunteers to fight crime is growing in Detroit.

Governor Snyder and Mayor Dave Bing announced Monday that the Americorps Urban Safety Corps program will extend into five Detroit neighborhoods.

The program empowers Americorps members to recruit and mobilize community volunteers for public safety efforts.

Joy VanBuhler / Flickr

Election Day 2013 is close at hand.

And that's when Detroit voters will decide whether their next Mayor will be Mike Duggan or Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.

The winner of the election will inherit the huge challenge of what to do about the crime rate in Detroit.

At least 386 people were murdered in the city last year, and recent FBI statistics put Detroit neck and neck with Flint for the top spot of most violent cities in America.

The high crime rate means those folks who can are getting out of these cities, which makes the economic downward spiral even worse.

What can be done? And do we really know what is driving the violence in cities like Detroit and Flint?

Michigan State University sociologist Dr. Carl Taylor joined us today from East Lansing. His new book "Third City" looks at the challenges in post-industrial Detroit and Michigan. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says new FBI crime numbers show there’s still work to be done to make Michigan cities safer.

Flint and Detroit topped the FBI’s list of most-dangerous cities, which is based on 2011 data.

But Governor Snyder says the state’s been aggressive about public safety, especially in Detroit, where violent crime rates have improved.

The Detroit Police Department is looking to boost its ranks.

The department is holding a recruiting fair for the first time in almost decade at its downtown public safety headquarters Saturday.

Police Chief James Craig says when he started the job last month, he found out there was funding to add 60 officers. But there weren’t enough recruits.

The Michigan Court of Appeals today heard the case of a 14-year-old boy convicted of four murders.

The court is considering evidence that the now 20-year-old man may be innocent.

In 2007, four people were shot in a Detroit neighborhood.

Police picked up Davontae Sanford, a partially blind, developmentally-delayed 14-year-old.

They held him for questioning without a parent or attorney present.

Sanford confessed and was given decades in prison.

Then, a convicted hit man, Vincent Smothers, said he - not Sanford - committed those murders.

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.

This week marks three years since an Enbridge Energy pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan. More than a million gallons of tar sands oil have been cleaned up from Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River, but the cleanup isn't over yet. We got an update on the cleanup efforts and what still needs to be done.

And, we heard from Michigan storyteller Allison Downey. She brought us the voices of the workers at a recent summer carnival. And, a new study at Michigan State University is investigating how dioxins affect human health. The lead researcher for this study joined us today. Also, bankruptcy isn't the only issue Detroit is facing. We took a look at how crime is plaguing the city. First on the show, eventually Detroit’s bankruptcy filing will be over. Eventually, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr will no longer be in charge of Detroit’s finances. When those things happen, Detroit will go back to being run by its city government… by a mayor, and a city council. 

Daniel Howes, columnist at The Detroit News, focused on this future in his column yesterday in the News. He joined us today to discuss whether Detroit can shed its bad governance habits in light of the bankruptcy.

Jurors will get instructions from a judge and then start deliberations in the trial of a Detroit police officer charged in the fatal shooting of a 7-year-old girl.

Joseph Weekley told jurors Thursday that he wasn't reckless when he accidentally fired his gun during a raid, killing Aiyana Stanley-Jones three years ago. He says he was struggling with Aiyana's grandmother over the gun.

The jury is returning to court Friday. Weekley is charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony, but the jury also can consider it a misdemeanor crime.

Prosecutor Rob Moran says there was no interference from grandmother Mertilla Jones. But defense attorney Steve Fishman says Jones has no credibility because she's told different stories about what happened.

Aiyana was killed when police raided a house to capture a murder suspect.

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)
Panoramio

DETROIT (AP) - Thieves struck a Detroit church and swiped a brass bell that's more than 100 years old.

The bell belongs to Sweetest Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church. Officials believe a lock was cut on a fence that surrounds the church grounds Thursday night or early Friday morning.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing joined federal, state and local law enforcement to unveil the “Detroit One” crime-fighting initiative Thursday.

The idea underpinning the effort is that a large portion of Detroit’s violent crime is committed by a relatively small number of people.

screen grab from National Geographic / YouTube

When gang violence breaks out in the roughest parts of Detroit, even the police call for help.

The gang squad is a special, paramilitary unit of the Detroit Police Department.

They're either necessarily tough, or notoriously brutal, depending on who you ask.

But if the city’s Mayor and the Police Chief have their way, the squad's days are numbered. 

Big guys with big guns

Think about it: big guys, with big guns, cruising the city’s toughest streets in the name of law and order. You know what we have here? A reality TV hit.

But dang it, a quick Google search shows the National Geographic Channel beat us to the punch.

Their “Inside Detroit Gang Squad” aired a few years ago, with all the dramatic music and drug raids you’d expect.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Arrests down as violent crimes rise in Detroit

Even though violent crime is up in Detroit, less people are getting arrested, the Detroit News reports.

"The fourth quarter of 2012 saw significantly fewer arrests in most precincts and districts compared with previous years — and the largest declines were in some of the city's most crime-ridden areas. . . Some inside the Detroit Police Department blame low officer morale."

Kilpatrick trial to wrap up today

"Courtroom proceedings in ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s federal corruption case should wrap up today. Prosecutors spent months making a painstaking case against Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, and longtime friend and city contractor Bobby Ferguson. The government says the men ran Detroit city government like a criminal enterprise for years. They all face a number of federal charges, including conspiracy and extortion," Sarah Cwiek reports.
 

Lansing police gun buyback collects 122 firearms

"Lansing police say their latest gun buyback program has brought in 122 firearms. The Lansing State Journal reports that people turned in 73 handguns, 47 long guns and two assault or military style guns," The Associated Press Reports.

Benny Napoleon knows law enforcement. He joined the Detroit police force almost by accident when he was an 18-year-old shoe salesman looking for something to do with his life.

That was back in 1975. Twenty-three years later, he became police chief, and violent crime dropped by 30 percent over the next three years. He retired when Kwame Kilpatrick became mayor, and taught and practiced law.

Two years ago, he was elected Wayne County Sheriff. And now he is thinking seriously about running for mayor of Detroit. My guess is that he may well be the favorite, whether or not Dave Bing runs again.

Napoleon is a lifelong Detroiter with a charismatic personality and an infectious grin. But he’s deadly serious about saving Detroit. He knows there are astronomical budget problems, and billions of long term liabilities that the city is probably never going to be able to pay.

Nor does he claim to have the economic answers, certainly not yet.  But the city’s biggest problem, he believes, is violent crime, especially the soaring homicide rate. “The reason for that,” he told me this weekend is the “especially violent narcotics trade in Detroit, and the gang activity,” and an extremely aggressive young male culture.

Napoleon strongly believes there could be no better use of what limited resources the city has than to crack down on violent crime. He once headed the city’s gang squad. He’s never been shot, though bullets have whizzed past him; he’s never shot anyone, though several times, he’s had to come close.

Detroit’s population has fallen by 300,000 people since he was police chief. “If you ask people why they left, the overwhelming majority will tell you it’s because of violent crime,” he said.

A Detroit police car
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Homicides are trending up in Detroit for the second year in a row.

The city recorded a total of 411 homicides in 2012, up about 9% from the previous year. That total includes killings deemed “justifiable” by police.

Detroit mayor Dave Bing says police can only do so much combat pervasive gun violence and a lack of “respect for life.”

Bing says he’s not sure adding even “1000 more police officers” to Detroit’s ranks would help.

“There are things happening in homes, and families, in the communities, and the neighborhoods, that whether a cop is there or not, it’s not gonna stop the crime.”

Detroit’s interim police chief, Chester Logan, agrees that the lack of police presence isn’t the root problem.

“America has a problem with guns, but the epicenter seems to be here in Detroit,” said Logan, adding that taking a stand against gun violence should be “the new civil rights issue.”

More than 85% percent of Detroit’s homicides were committed with guns. There were also 1263 reported non-fatal shootings in 2012.

Both Bing and Logan note that the city’s police ranks have thinned considerably in recent years, due largely to attrition. The department had about 2700 sworn officers in 2011.

Logan declined to release current manpower numbers, saying only: “We certainly don’t want to frighten anybody, but it’s sufficient.”

Police say the uptick in homicides belies a decline in some other major crimes, including a nearly 13% drop in burglaries, and a slight decrease in aggravated assaults.

According to department  numbers, “overall city-wide crime is down 2.63% in the aggregate compared to 2011.”

Bing also vowed to hold “regular press briefings” on public safety issues in the coming year.

“Future briefings will focus on a comprehensive analysis of homicide trends in the city, case closure rates, and crime reduction strategies in the Detroit Police Department,” the mayor said.

Well, we’ve gotten past the so-called fiscal cliff, at least for now, and averted what might have been a disaster for our economy.

Soon, once everyone is back to work, you can expect to see a whole lot of attention paid to the economic disaster that is Detroit.

The state is reviewing the city’s finances, and the governor may soon name an emergency financial manager.

You’ll be hearing a lot about that as things move along. But there is another horrendous crisis destroying Detroit that we don’t talk much about. Black people are killing black people at a horrendous rate, and nobody seems sufficiently concerned. 

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) — 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.

The Parade Company / via theparade.org

Suburban law enforcement officers will help Detroit Police keep the peace at this year’s riverfront fireworks.

But city officials warn it’s the last time the city will pick up the security tab for a major “regional” event.

“We can’t continue this way, with the financial condition that the city’s in," Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis said Monday. "Nor does it really make sense, in particular, for regional events…to not have the region help support those.”

City of Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing joined other city and law enforcement officials to break ground on the city’s future public safety headquarters Tuesday.

The former MGM Grand Casino and another building will get a $60 million makeover before it’s slated to open next year.

The renovated complex will house Detroit’s Police, Fire, EMS, and Homeland Security departments. There are also plans to put a Michigan State Police crime lab there.

Bing says the new set-up will help the city’s crime-fighting efforts.

Earlier this week, while we were paying a lot of attention to the presidential primary race, many of the big shots in Detroit turned out for a baby’s funeral. Delric Waymon Miller died when a gunman riddled his home with bullets from an AK-47.

That was, by the way, the standard assault rifle used by our ancient enemy, the old Soviet Union. The USSR is as dead as a dinosaur, but its weapons are still killing Americans.

jalopnik.com

Detroit Police and federal law enforcement agencies say they’re strengthening their collaboration to fight violence.

And they’ve set their sights on Detroit’s most dangerous neighborhoods.

Law enforcement brass gathered at the crime wave’s ground zero—the city’s east side—to outline their joint plans Wednesday.

jalopnik.com

Mayor Dave Bing is pleading with Detroiters to “stop the madness” after another violent weekend in the city.

Bing’s plea comes after a shooting on the city’s east side left a six-year-old boy critically injured.

Detroit Police have arrested a pair of 15-year-olds in the case. Chief Ralph Godbee says the two were on a carjacking spree when the shooting happened.

Michigan State Police say it will take millions of dollars to process thousands of rape kits found in an abandoned Detroit crime lab.

John Collins is State Police Director of Forensic Science. He says Michigan State University researchers are helping to identify the kits but the procedure takes time and money:

“What we hope to have eventually is some federal support to help us supply resources to test as many of these kits as possible, and to assist with the prosecutions that we think will come later on down the road,” said Collins.

Collins says about a thousand rape kits will be analyzed for DNA in the next year.  The results will be submitted to a national database to look for matches from other cases.

That leaves a backlog of another 10,000  kits .

The Detroit Police crime lab was shut down in 2008 after it was learned that firearms cases had been improperly handled.

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee says the number of serious crimes in Detroit fell last year—but the number of killings climbed.

Preliminary statistics show Detroit recorded 344 homicides in 2011. That’s up about 12 percent from 2010, but roughly in line with the longer-term average.

“We promised that we would reduce violent crime. Are we satisfied with homicide numbers? Absolutely not," Godbee says. "But promises made, promises kept. We’ve delivered on reducing violent crime.”

Godbee credited his officers’ “Herculean efforts” to combat crime as department resources continue to shrink. He says the department is re-organizing to deal with that—including eliminating some desk jobs to put more officers on the streets.

Godbee also notes that Detroit Police have improved outreach and coordination with community, and the DPD is now about 80 percent compliant with a federal consent decree.

The department has been under federal oversight since 2003, for issues related to excessive force and prisoner treatment.

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