Shootings up, other crimes down in Detroit with more cops off quarantine

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's shelter-in-place order hasn't prevented criminals from shooting people in Detroit, but when it comes to most other crimes, lawbreakers appear to be staying home, too.

The drop in most violent and property crimes in the city coincides with more Detroit cops returning to duty. For the first time in weeks, fewer than 100 Detroit police employees are quarantined, police chief James Craig said Thursday.

Detroit police officer A. Hernandez sprays down her vehicle with alcohol at the start of her shift at the Detroit police department 4th Precinct in Detroit on April 14, 2020.  The police department has implemented various safety measures due to the coronavirus crisis.

Whitmer issued her shelter-in-place order March 23, although the virus already was having an impact by mid-March, when businesses were closing and people were staying home voluntarily.

Detroit police officials Thursday provided data from March 16-April 26 that show fewer people on the street has resulted in fewer crimes — other than nonfatal shootings, which jumped 66% over the same period in 2019, and an increase from 21 homicides during that time-frame in 2019 to 26 this year.

"I'm very encouraged by the numbers, except those nagging shooting and homicide numbers," Craig said. "That carries over from the beginning of the year, when we saw an uptick in homicides and shootings.

"Unfortunately, we've got some clowns who have no reverence for life, and the coronavirus isn't going to stop them," Craig said.

The city averaged 752 Part 1 crimes — which include violent and property offenses — per week during the 41-day period last year. That's dropped to an average of 590 per week, or 22% this year, according to the data

"One interesting statistic about an issue that comes up a lot nowadays is domestic violence," Craig said. "We're not getting as many domestic violence calls as usual."

While some law enforcement agencies and shelters are reporting an uptick in domestic violence since Whitmer's shelter-in-place order was imposed, Craig said Detroit has seen a 12% drop during since March 16, from 2,052 reports during that period last year to 1,796 in 2020.

Other drops include robberies (down 20%), burglaries (28%), sexual assaults (40%) and aggravated assaults (12%), police numbers show.

The decrease in aggravated assaults during the period drove the overall crime numbers down, Craig said.

"That's because the bulk of our violent crimes is always aggravated assault, so that brings everything else down" he said. "Everyone's at home, so that's also having a big impact."

The crime abatement has resulted in an average response time of 9 minutes, Craig said. "That's the lowest it's ever been," he said.

"Contrary to what people believe, we’re still out there doing our jobs," he said. "Last week, we got more than 30 illegal guns off the street, and we're working with (the U.S. Department of Justice) to take some of those cases federally.

"We're not just driving around with masks on," Craig said. "We're doing police work."

Detroit Police Officers Association president Craig Miller said morale among the rank and file is "pretty good."

"You hear a few complaints," he said. "Some people want more time off, and some don't like wearing a mask. But they're in the minority; the bickering is nothing major.

"We're managing under the circumstances," Miller said. "Every member of the department is getting tested. The whole city is getting tested, and that's been helping a lot with getting officers back to work."

Earlier this month, when Detroit emerged as one of the nation's coronavirus hot spots, the city became one of the first in the United States to receive rapid-testing kits for the coronavirus to get quicker results for first responders and health care workers.

Craig, who was knocked out of commission last month after testing positive for the coronavirus, said he's encouraged that only 73 members of his department — 56 sworn and 17 civilian employees — were quarantined as of Wednesday.

"That's a dramatic decline from when we had more than 500 members quarantined a few weeks ago," the chief said.

Since the coronavirus crisis began, the department has quarantined 1,112 officers — 44% of the 2,500-member police force — he said.

"We've also seen a dramatic drop in the number of officers who are hospitalized because of the coronavirus," Craig said. "We had a high of 14 people in the hospital a few weeks ago; now, we only have three with COVID.

"It was pretty rough for a while there, but lately, there's been a lot of encouraging news," he said.

(313) 222-2134

Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN