If good news can be found in the 267 homicides recorded in Detroit in 2017, it’s this: The number is the lowest total since 1966, and represents a 12 percent decrease over the prior year.
That’s a significant decline, and an important trend line if Detroit hopes to extend its revival into the city’s neighborhoods.
Murder rates dropped in major cities across the country, as police departments made greater use of advances in crime fighting technology.
Police Chief James Craig and Mayor Mike Duggan give credit for the reduction in Detroit to better policing techniques, specifically Project Green Light and Operation Ceasefire.
Both are pro-active efforts to first discourage violent crime, and when it does occur to respond swiftly to arrest those responsible.
Project Green Light has placed cameras in 240 gas stations, fast food joints and other businesses where crime is likely to occur.
The video recordings have helped police apprehend dozens of criminal suspects over the past year, and the cameras are also seen as a deterrent to committing a crime.
The cameras are monitored by officers and civilians in the department’s Real Time Crime Center, and Craig believes they serve to multiply the reach of his manpower.
Project Green Light has proven its value, and should continue to expand throughout the city. Installation costs are borne by the business owner, but their effectiveness has proved worth the investment.
Operation Ceasefire is a partnership between Detroit Police, the Wayne County prosecutor and the U.S. Attorney’s office.
It seeks to identify gang members and others who are likely to commit crimes, and the types of crimes they’re most likely to be involved in. When a crime is committed in an area with high gang activity, police have a good starting point for looking for suspects.
Job training and other rehabilitative services are offered to those identified by Operation Ceasefire as gang members.
It has been used so fare on the city’s east side, but the chief hopes to expand it throughout the city.
Good police work overall should also get some credit. When Craig took over the department in 2013, the closure rate for homicides stood at just 11 percent. You could literally get away with murder in the city.
Last year, cops solved 58 percent of the murders committed in the city.
Greater certainty of getting caught tends to make criminals more cautious, and also cuts down on the number of killers who commit multiple murders.
At 40 murders per 100,000 residents, Detroit’s number is still too high.
The answer for future reductions lies only partly in the effectiveness of the police and further advances in technology.
To make this a truly safe city demands a cultural change. There are too many illegal guns in the pockets of too many who use them without weighing the consequences.
Project Ceasefire is a good deterrence step to dissuade young people, young men in particular, to step away from violent lifestyles.
More such efforts will be needed to accelerate the positive murder rate trend, and must include a vast improvement in education attainment in the city, as well as support for vulnerable families.
The police department is the major player in reducing violent crime, but not the only one. Churches, parents, educators and others in the community must help carry the load.