Detroit homicide prosecutions cost society $1.6M per shooting, report says

The Detroit News

Detroit — The societal cost of prosecuting a homicide in Detroit — $1.6 million per shooting. That number only drops to $1.1 million in cases where a victim is shot but not killed.

Those numbers were among the statistics released Saturday in a report by Force Detroit, an activist group seeking "creative justice-oriented solutions," detailing the costs of gun violence in Michigan's largest city.

The societal cost of prosecuting a homicide in Detroit — $1.6 million per shooting, according to a report from Force Detroit.

The cost breakdown starts at the crime scene, where uniformed officers and detectives  arrive, the victim is transported to the hospital or the morgue, and the scene is cleaned up.

Read: Detroit cost per shooting report

If the victim requires medical treatment before dying, that comes at a cost too. If they survive, rehab costs can hit the tens of thousands.

Police investigations and prosecutions all cost money from there, as does the suspect's jail stay and, if convicted, their eventual prison placement.

Supporting victims is another cost, as is the sales tax revenue that would've been generated by the purchases of the victim, if they had survived, and the suspect, if they weren't incarcerated.

Those massive costs led Force (Faithfully Organizing Resources for Community Empowerment) Detroit, which was founded in 2017, to believe there is a better way to reach people — ideally, before they commit a crime in the first place — and that police locally should pursue it, said Alia Harvey-Quinn, 36, executive director of Force Detroit.

"We're hoping to inspire our leaders to take a hard look at the cost of a heavy-handed approach to issues of gun violence and safety, versus programs that support people who are shooters," Harvey-Quinn said. 

Harvey-Quinn cited Flip The Script, a North End-based prison diversion program put on by Goodwill Industries, as one providing exactly that type of support.

But Flip's $1.5 million in state funding is in peril, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan House have both recommended it receive no funding from the state. But the budget process has yet to fully play out, and program officials and local politicians are working with state lawmakers to convey its value.

"There are alternatives, but it requires that we refocus our minds, that we invest in individuals," Harvey-Quinn told The News Saturday, after a press conference announcing the report. It requires that we listen to the traumas that are occurring in shooters' lives, which requires that we have a conversation with them."

The report was released in collaboration with the National Institute for Justice Reform, and came during a two-day Detroit-based training on gun violence and prevention. Force Detroit is the local branch of a national effort called Faith In Action, Harvey-Quinn explained. Faith In Action's Live Free campaign put on the training, which was held on Mack. Force stands for Faithfully Organizing Resources for Community Empowerment.

In a release on the training, Rev. Barry Randolph, pastor of Detroit's Church of the Messiah, said "our cities must invest in proactive work around gun violence in our communities. These incidents of violence are preventable, the cost when a shooting occurs could be funneled into the community."

"We're going to spend this money one way or another," Harvey-Quinn said. "Prevention, and investment in people, costs much less."