July 4, 2014 at 9:49 am

Saginaw gets crime mapping from university project

Saginaw Valley State University professor Andrew Miller explains the project's findings at SVSU in Saginaw last month. (Coty Giannelli / AP)

Saginaw— Saginaw Valley State University professors and students have shared with police their recent work to identify crime trends in Saginaw, noting poverty and vacant homes as key factors in the city.

The team spent a year on the project, mapping the location of every shooting and homicide in Saginaw from 2005 to 2013 and analyzing information, the Saginaw News reported. Findings were presented to city police and the Saginaw Crime Prevention Council.

“To be able to see this visual that we were providing to them, was something that they could go sell to the electorate, residents, business, and they can use to create better policing practices,” said Saginaw Valley State University professor Andrew Miller.

Police Chief Brian Lipe said he was interested to hear that predictors of crime in Saginaw found by the team included poverty and vacant housing units. The city, which has a high poverty rate, is among many in Michigan dealing with vacant and blighted property.

“They did a great job; it was a lot of work and hours,” Lipe said.

The map shows “hot spots” in red, with highly clustered shootings and homicides, and “cold spots” in blue, with diffuse or random shootings and homicides. The Saginaw News last year published a similar map of shootings and homicides in the city from 2008 to 2013 for its “Living Dangerously” series.

“The traditional areas where people would expect crime, over the past 20 to 30 years, is where the majority of crime is happening,” Miller said.

Two students, creative writing major and technical geography minor Emily Gennrich, 24, and history major and technical geography minor Kevin Erb, 23, approached Miller and professor James Bowers in the summer of 2013 with the idea for the project.

Two criminal justice majors plan to take the project further next year, looking at how the analysis will apply outside the city.