July 30, 2014 at 1:18 pm

U.S. Rep: Don't send Honduran children to Detroit, it's too dangerous

U.S. Rep. Steve King )

Washington — An Iowa Republican in Congress argues the only place more dangerous than the Motor City is Honduras — drawing the ire of a Michigan member of Congress.

Congress has been debating what to do about the influx of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America — especially Honduras. Many parents in Honduras have sent their children with smugglers, citing the dangerous climate in the country.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told reporters Tuesday that Detroit isn’t that much better for some children than parts of the country they’re leaving behind, and it’s even more dangerous than other areas of Honduras, repeating comments he made on the House floor on July 8.

“When you look at those countries and the homicide rates that they have, only Honduras has a higher violent death rate than Detroit,” King said in his speech. “If we are going to move kids out of Central America to the United States of America because they live in a violent society, we dare not send them to Detroit because we would be putting them in an environment that is more dangerous than the one they left.”

King is correct that no other Central American country — besides Honduras — has a higher overall murder rate than Detroit. The number of murders in Detroit have fallen as has violent crime but the population has also continued to shrink.

In April, a United Nations report found that Honduras has the world's highest murder rate, with 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people in 2012 — at least twice as high as all other Central American countries. Detroit’s is far lower, according to FBI figures released in October. In 2012, among all large U.S. cities, Flint had the highest rate with 63 murders per 100,000 people followed by Detroit with 54.6 murders per 100,000.

Forbes magazine labeled Detroit as the nation’s most dangerous large city for the fifth straight year based on a review of all major crime data.

U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, who represents part of Detroit in Congress, blasted King’s remarks calling them “outrageous.”

“I think it is absolutely outrageous that you still have someone who thinks it is OK to dump on Detroit. We’re making such great strides in the city. We’re going to see our best days ahead of us. I’m very confident of that — so to continue to have someone taking cheap shots is simply unacceptable,” Peters said.

In 2013, there were 333 murders in the city —a drop of 53, or nearly 14 percent, from the previous year's 386. That total doesn't include justifiable homicides, which fell from 25 in 2012 to 15 in 2013.

That means Detroit’s murder rate has fallen to 48.3 per 100,000 based on the Census Bureau’s most recent population estimates. That’s close to Belize’s 44.7 murders per 100,000 people and El Salvador’s 41.2 murders per 100,000 people.

DShepardson@detroitnews.com