Homicides, shootings, robberies declined in Detroit last year, bucking other big cities

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the homicide figures for 2021.

Detroit — Police Chief James White briefing Thursday on 2021 crime statistics offered insight on the city's crime fighting strategies, and its partnerships with local and federal agencies. 

Detroit had 309 criminal homicides in 2021 compared to 324 the previous year, a 4% decrease. Non-fatal shootings were down 9%. Robberies were down 18%.

More:Detroit sees 5% drop in homicides in 2021 while other large cities endure more violent year

"We are not in any way celebrating these numbers," White said. "These reductions illustrate the value of our efforts together as a collaboration during an unprecedented time in history. You look at what's happening around this country, you look at crime around this country."

The News reported this week that while Detroit's homicide numbers dropped in 2021, other big cities saw increases. Some, such as Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Portland, had historically-high homicide tallies. 

White took over after the June 1 retirement of his predecessor and former boss, James Craig, who is now a Republican candidate for governor.

He said he came in with a five-point strategy that summer; Increased police presence, noise enforcement, drag racing and drifting enforcement, parking lot and code enforcement, and community engagement.

"One of the things that helps is when your mayor gives you 4,000 hours of overtime to fight crime when you walk in the door," White said. 

That was actually 4,000 hours of overtime per weekend, for "crowd management," according to a copy of White's presentation, which was provided to The News.

Another 2,000 hours of overtime per weekend were authorized to address drifting and speeding, the presentation said. 

White was joined at the year-in-review press conference by Dawn Ison, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Sheriff Raphael Washington, Lt. Mike Shaw of Michigan State Police, as well as leaders from the FBI, ATF and DEA.

"The reason we have our partners here today is to recognize that without you, this would not be possible," White said.

There were 105 fewer non-fatal shootings in Detroit 2021, 1,065 compared to 1,170. 

White and Evans, himself a former Detroit Police Chief and Wayne County Sheriff, both described non-fatal shootings in similar terms.

"A non-fatal shooting is a failed homicide," White said. 

"The only difference between non-fatal shootings and homicides is aim," Evans said. "We've got to stop the shooting."

White said Detroit police seized some 7,800 guns in 2021.

"The unfortunate reality is we're on target to bring in another 7,000 guns this year," White said, six days into the new year. 

White offered another prediction.

"The unfortunate reality is at some point in the next 30 days, I'll be talking about a heinous act in this community," White said. "(Detroiters) have a right to come home from the grocery store and not be accosted in their driveway for whatever they have on them."

White said on starting the job that traffic enforcement would be a major focus.

"We've got a four-wheeler problem," White said. "We've got a drag racing problem. We've got a drifting problem."

Michigan State Police collaborated with Detroit police to use its helicopter to monitor roads. 

"We need it again this year," White said. "That helicopter allowed us to not have to get into chases, and put our community at risk."

"Speeders beware," said Shaw, the state police lieutenant. "We're killing each other on these freeways because people are having trouble staying off that gas pedal."

White said that police are content to be a deterrent, if people will be deterred.

"If you see us and decide not to do it, we win," White said. "You win. Go home. Don't drag race. Don't get in an accident. Don't use a gun to solve a simple dispute."