Violent crime down 13% in Detroit, still 2nd in U.S.

Nicquel Terry, Christine MacDonald, and George Hunter

It’s been a year since Vaughn Arrington was carjacked outside his house on Pelkey in Detroit.

Arrington was discussing a youth jobs program with a woman from Cleveland when a gunman assaulted the woman and drove off in Arrington’s Ford Mustang.

Despite the incident, Arrington, 34, who installed video cameras on his east side property last year to record criminals, said crime is down in his neighborhood.

“I’ve been the victim, but I’m telling you, things are getting better,” he said.

New FBI statistics released Monday show violent crime dropped 13 percent in Detroit in 2015 compared to the year before, setting it apart from other major cities such as Chicago. The Illinois city’s spike has made violent crime there and nationwide a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail.

Chicago reported 25,663 violent crimes in 2015, up from 24,085 a year earlier while nationally, the violent crime rate rose 3.9 percent.

Despite Detroit’s decline, it still has the second highest violent crime rate for cities of more than 100,000 residents, trailing St. Louis, according to the FBI numbers. Last year, there were 11,846 reported violent crimes in Detroit compared to 13,616 in 2014.

Murders in Detroit were little changed: 295 last year — compared to 298 in 2014 — for a rate of 44 per 100,000 people. That’s the third-highest rate in the nation behind St. Louis (59) and Baltimore (55).

Detroit’s murder rate is nearly 10 times higher than New York City’s and is almost triple that of Houston’s.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig credited the drop in violent crime to having strong ties with the community and police officers feeling appreciated.

“If you look at those cities that have seen an uptick in crime, you’ll see there are issues between the police departments and the communities,” he said. “As a result, de-policing takes place. Look at Baltimore: They had unrest there, the police stopped making arrests, and crime soared. You don’t see that in Detroit, because we’ve made sure we’re in touch with our community.”

Arrington, who served 10 years in prison for committing a carjacking, said things are looking up in his neighborhood on the east side, considered the most violent area of the Motor City.

“From the street level, from the hood, I’m not seeing as many drug houses operating,” he said. “Usually, if I see a dope house, I’ll call police right away. But I haven’t had to make as many of those calls as I used to.”

Arrington credited more police patrols and a tighter bond between police and the community for the drop in crime: “They’re not just driving on the main streets; they’re in and out of the side streets.”

Oakland University criminal justice professor Daniel Kennedy said Detroit’s strong relationship between police and the community has helped curb violent crime, which includes murder, rape, assault and robbery.

He said in cities such as Chicago, police are seeing the “Ferguson effect” — a phrase criminologists coined after the August 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.

Kennedy said the community outrage over what was ultimately deemed a justified shooting caused many police officers to stop aggressively trying to prevent crime.

“With the Ferguson effect, the theory is that police stop doing the kind of proactive policing that helps keep crime down, because they say, ‘Why should we break our necks when the community doesn’t appreciate what we’re doing?’ ” Kennedy said. “That kind of de-policing is not happening in Detroit.”

In contrast to Detroit’s decline, the FBI statistics show that most Michigan cities with more than 50,000 residents saw an increase in violent crime last year.

Among those were Warren, Dearborn, Lansing and Grand Rapids.

Pete Collins, 46, of Royal Oak said most residents in his neighborhood are concerned about car break-ins and burglaries. His car was broken into in 2010 while parked in his driveway.

Today, he sees more officers driving down the street and stopping to meet residents. His city saw 52 violent crimes last year compared to 75 in 2014.

“It makes you feel comfortable when you can see them out there and see them interacting more,” said Collins, who helped create an online neighborhood watch service called Crimedar. “I think every department could do that a little more, a little better.”

Dearborn, which came under fire in the past year for two incidents where officers fatally shot citizens, saw a slight increase in violent crime with 339 incidents in 2014 compared to 356 in 2015.

Police Chief Ronald Haddad said his department is seeing more domestic violence-related assaults as well as store robberies.

Dearborn officers have made efforts to visit schools and faith-based groups to educate citizens on personal protection orders and resolving differences without assaulting someone. Police are also increasing their presence in areas where crime, such as robberies, may occur, he said.

“We have assigned our officers to hot zones so that they can respond quicker,” Haddad said. “When people see the police with proactive patrols, some of these things may not occur in the first place.”

Other cities in Michigan with populations over 50,000 are among the nation’s safest. Rochester had the sixth lowest violent crime rate, with 25 violent crimes total, while Novi ranked 25th lowest, with 31 violent crimes.

Statewide, violent crime fell 3 percent in 2015, according to the statistics.

Property crimes in Detroit, which include car theft, burglary and larceny, also went down last year by 16 percent, from 32,983 crimes in 2014 to 27,559 last year. Car thefts were cut by about half, from 10,083 in 2014 to 5,216 last year.

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