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Plunging Crime Rate Should Be Part Of Detroit’s Comeback Story

Detroit is on pace to have the fewest homicides in the city since 1967.  That statistic might be the most important factor in the outlook for Detroit.

The city’s bankruptcy has inspired experts to discuss what Detroit’s future will look like. An essential part of that conversation has to be public safety.  For decades, Detroit’s increasing crime rate has presented a barrier to attracting residents and businesses to our neighborhoods and our downtown.  That trend is now moving in the other direction.

Thanks to the cooperation of state and federal partners, Detroit saw a 15 percent reduction in the homicide rate last year and an additional 13 percent decrease this year.  Other crimes are also down significantly – carjacking by 30 percent, robbery by 25 percent and non-fatal shootings by 13 percent.   As Mayor Mike Duggan, a proven problem-solver, takes the reigns of the city’s public safety operations, we can expect an even brighter future.

The leadership and hard work of Detroit Police Chief James Craig and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and the addition of Michigan State Police resources in Detroit have made a significant impact on crime rates.

Another contributing factor to the reduction in the homicide rate is Detroit One, a comprehensive strategy encompassing enforcement, prevention and community engagement.  Partners include the Detroit Police Department, Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, Michigan State Police, FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshal’s Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement agencies, as well as faith and community groups.  Law enforcement representatives meet weekly to identify the “worst of the worst” violent offenders and then work together to apprehend and charge them.  By removing these trigger pullers from our streets, violent crime has gone down.

The Detroit One strategy also involves prevention programs, such as the Ceasefire initiative, which intervenes with members of violent groups, and the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, which attacks the problems that cause young people to become victims or perpetrators of crime.  Faith and community partners are deeply involved in presenting young people with positive choices and alternatives to crime.

The third component of the Detroit One strategy is community engagement.  Effective law enforcement depends on citizens to report when they are victims or witnesses to crime.  Officers and prosecutors are meeting with citizen groups and block clubs to help defeat the “no snitch” culture that discourages residents from calling police.  As citizens have seen DPD improve its response times and its homicide closure rate from 11 percent to 70 percent, citizens are gaining confidence in the police and reporting crime.  DPD’s compliance with the provisions of a consent decree resolving allegations of police misconduct has also made the department more sensitive and accountable to the public, which enhances its credibility and legitimacy.  All of these factors contribute to reduced crime rates.   

The U.S. Department of Justice is contributing to reducing violent crime in Detroit as well by including our city in its new Violence Reduction Network initiative to improve access to training, expert technical assistance and grants.  A Detroit delegation traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to share ideas and learn about emerging strategies and technologies for fighting crime.

Of course, for victims, even one crime is too many, and the law enforcement professionals in Detroit remain committed to improving public safety.  We can and must do better.

But based on the trajectory of crime rates, and the commitment of Detroit’s leaders and residents, the future holds optimism for a safer Detroit.

Barbara L. McQuade
United States Attorney
Eastern District of Michigan

Updated March 20, 2015