Crime stats: Detroit marks 302 homicides in 2016

Candice Williams, and James David Dickson

Detroit — After two years of declining homicide numbers, Detroit had 302 homicides in 2016, according to crime statistics released Wednesday.

Other crimes, such as carjackings, robberies and nonfatal shootings, declined, according to figures from the Police Department.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig noted the uptick Wednesday of seven homicides in 2016, noting that for cities that have seen dramatic crime reduction, such as Los Angeles and New York, it didn’t happen in a couple of years.

“Not waving a flag of success, but progress certainly ...” Craig said during a news conference at police headquarters Wednesday afternoon. “What we’re seeing here, we are on the right track. I’m absolutely confident.”

The city’s population is 677,116, breaking the 302 homicides down to 44.6 per 100,000 residents, giving Detroit still one of the highest murder rates in the country. In 1987, the city reached a 30-year high for homicides at 686, a rate of 63 homicides per 100,000 residents with the population then above 1 million.

The 302 homicides for 2016 represent a 2.3 percent jump from the 2015’s total of 295; it is a 1 percent increase 2014’s homicide total of 299. Compared to 2013, when Craig joined the force halfway through, homicides are down about 10 percent, from 332.

Of those 302 homicides, Craig said, 114 were a result of arguments, some involving individuals who previously were incarcerated.

“We believe if we can work with the (Michigan Department of Corrections) to help individuals who are returning citizens to make better choices, we believe we can shrink that number,” Craig said.

These figures do not include justifiable homicides, as is normal Detroit Police Department practice.

Rapes also increased 4.8 percent from 537 in 2015 to 564 in 2016. Vehicle thefts increased by 5.8 percent from 8035 in 2015 to 8534 in 2016.

The crime stats were released amid at least four fatal shootings within the first four days of 2017. Police were investigating the following fatal shootings: a 47-year-old man as he drove on the city’s west side Monday afternoon, the death of a 60-year-old motorist Tuesday night, the killing of a man in his teens or early 20s as he drove a stolen Dodge Caravan Tuesday night and the death of a man walking on West Grand Boulevard Tuesday night.

Carjackings have plummeted by 150, to 382, some 39 percent lower than the 2015 total of 532. And in 2016, Detroiters were half as likely to be victims of a carjacking than they were when Craig arrived in 2013, a year that saw 782 carjackings.

Nonfatal shootings fell below 1,000 in 2016, down to 982, some 8 percent below the 2015 total of 1,035.

“Non-fatal shootings are nothing more than unsuccessful homicide as far as I’m concerned,” Craig said. “Overall, violent crime continues to drop ... The stats keep going in the right direction.”

Detroit earned the nickname “Murder City” after 714 homicides in 1974. The 295 slaying recorded two years ago was the city’s lowest since 1967, when 281 homicides were recorded.

Craig credits an improving relationship with Detroit residents and businesses, as well as the improved morale of police officers, as helping to drive crime numbers down.

Detroiter Angy Webb said she’s noticed the difference. She said she feels safer than she did a few years ago.

“I do think (crime) went down,” she said. “The more people get involved and speak out against crime when they know (a crime) is committed, the safer we will all be. What gives the criminals power is when people don’t speak out.”

“If I felt I had a problem, I believe that I could get a response from police,” Webb said.

Some residents, though, are hesitant to say the streets are safer. Kenneth Reed, spokesman for the watchdog group Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, said he’s concerned about crime that is not reported. Craig, he said, is selling a false idea about the numbers, which, he said, don’t tell the whole story of crime on Detroit’s streets.

“You can say it’s safer out here, but what about the person who has to stand out on the bus stop at 5, 6 in the morning at Greenfield, Dexter and Joy Road?” Reed said. “And they’re subject to be robbed. I highly doubt they feel safe.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.