One year. One city. Endless opportunities.

In Detroit, Improvement on Crime?

Crime is certainly one of the biggest barriers to Detroit's turnaround aspirations. So on Monday, the city's mayor, Dave Bing, and his new police chief, Warren Evans, quickly called a press conference to announce a slight positive news development: Homicides appear to be on the decline.

According to data released this morning at Detroit's City Hall, the number of homicides recorded during the third quarter of this year fell to 96, from 111, in the same period in 2008. That's a difference of about 16%. Comparing crime stats from previous years is a bit tricky, because of poor record-keeping. “I'm encouraged by the progress, but also recognize we have not solved the problem,” Bing said this morning, adding, “We can't hide from these statistics or reports, as unpleasant as they may be at times.”

One of Bing's first strokes after being elected mayor last May was hiring Evans, the well-regarded sheriff of Wayne County, which includes Detroit. Evans inherited a police force that has endured a 25% cut in recent years, mainly because of the city's budget crisis. (So far, Evans' department has largely been spared Bing's efforts to sharply reduce the number of people on the city's payrolls to close a deficit of at least $275 million.) As a result, the department's remaining 3,000 officers are overwhelmed dealing with violent crime across a large territory. During Monday's press conference, Evans acknowledged it typically takes his officers some 20 minutes to respond to 911 calls, although he wants to reduce the estimated response time to between 5 and 7 minutes. (In this week's print edition of TIME, we write about residents of some Detroit neighborhoods hiring private security forces.)

Evans attributed the decline in recorded homicides partly to his assigning roughly 20 officers to the department's gang enforcement unit, a move that has apparently bolstered the gathering of intelligence that may be used to prevent homicides and other crimes. Evans has also directed his officers' attention to the streets surrounding Detroit's schools. Just last week, a 15-year-old girl was attacked and sexually assaulted on her way to school.

Also today, the city reported that the police department had solved about 60% of the homicides recorded during the third quarter of this year, up from about 35% in the same period one year earlier, and apparently in line with the national average. The department, in a press release, said it was the first time in a decade it had closed 60% of its homicide cases. Evans attributed the improved closure rate partly to citizens feeling more comfortable reporting crimes. Another surprising development: an improved willingness among some suspects to turn themselves into authorities.

It's worth waiting to see if today's news is simply a blip, or the start of a sustained improvement on crime. Certainly, one metric by which Bing's tenure will be judged: Is Detroit safer than it was the day he took office?

  • Print
  • Comment
Comments (8)
Post a Comment »
  • 1

    [...] you're going with all this), there does finally appear to be some relatively good news on the Assignment Detroit site worth repeating for the benefit of all of us who have a problem with murder. According to one [...]

  • 2

    [...] you’re going with all this), there does finally appear to be some relatively good news on the Assignment Detroit site worth repeating for the benefit of all of us who have a problem with murder. According to one [...]

  • 3

    Funny thing crime in Detroit, Die at the hospital due to a gun shot, not murder it is due to surgical complications, die durring an argument with a spouse... not murder, it's domestic violence. Poor record keeping has been a problem in the past in Detroit, But now that the records are supposedly better kept the homocide rate has dropped slightly. It all just seems odd to me. May be I just don't get it.

  • 4

    Exactly. Ever see the TV series "The Wire?" In the show, the Baltimore city admin "jukes" the crime stats so it appears that there is less crime. Detroit has a history of doing this as well (documented in major Detroit newspapers) and I hope that "juking" the stats isn' the reason for this otherwise unexplainable drop in crime.

    • 4.1

      The drop in homicides has been noted during hard financial times in the past and elsewhere. It's probably due to the changes low finances force (i.e. less alcohol and drugs consumed, less going out and interacting with others in tight spaces, fewer purchases of guns and ammo).

      If you're familiar with Detroit you know a lot of the shootings and homicides are drug and gang related, or are alcohol fueled neighborhood or family feuds that get out of control, or the occasional alcohol drenched bar fight that escalates.

  • 5

    [...] overstaffed. Either way, the Detroit Police Department—where the typical 9-1-1 response time is over 20 minutes—must be envious. Share [...]

  • 6

    [...] city council members have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. It's no secret that crime is one of the biggest barriers to Detroit's turnaround aspirations. The city's police force is overwhelmed covering a vast, often sparsely populated [...]

  • 7

    [...] since we all love safer cities, I want all my fellow LionsDetroit fans to check out detroit.blogs.time and tell me what you think about[...]

Add Your Comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.
The Detroit Blog Daily E-mail

Get e-mail updates from TIME's The Detroit Blog in your inbox and never miss a day.

More News from Our Partners

Quotes of the Day »

NICHOLAS FISHER, expert at Stony Brook University in New York who took part in a study which found that bluefin tuna contaminated with radiation believed to be from Fukushima Daiichi were present off the coast of California just five months after the nuclear meltdown.