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Why the Detroit Crime Rate is Dropping

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The Detroit crime rate has seen a significant decline in the last few years. However, it still has a higher crime rate than all but one other US city. What has caused this decrease and what does it mean for the city?

The History of Crime in Detroit

For decades, Detroit has been notorious for its high crime rate. The trouble dates all the way back to the 1920s, during the Prohibition. Like most cities at the time, Detroit had a secret alcohol trade. The “Purple Gang” was in charge of all of the city’s illegal activities. Crime became a major issue.

By the 70s, the city’s primary industry (automobiles) was declining. People were laid off, wages were lowered, and many middle-class people left the city. With those changes came more crime. The Detroit crime rate was among the highest in the nation.  In 1974, there were 714  homicides in the city.

At this time, violent street gangs took over the drug trade. It only led to more crime. During the 70s and 80s, people called Detroit the Arson Capital of America. Criminals set over 800 fires in 1984. Detroit ranked as one of the worst cities for unemployment, poverty, and infant mortality in the 80s. Detroit saw its highest rate in crime in 1987, with 686 homicides.

Crime in the ’90s

The early 90s wasn’t much better. In 1991 the crime rate peaked with over 2,700 violent crimes per every 100,000 people. That year, there were 615 homicides. People associated Detroit with crime; it often ranked as the first or second highest crime rate in the country. And there seemed to be nothing anyone could do to help. Detroit’s economy was still suffering. There wasn’t money left to fund programs or to make the changes that needed to be done. Abandoned houses were on every corner, and the streets weren’t safe.

But then, fast forward to today. In 2015, Detroit saw only 295 homicides. Although that number increased by 7 in 2016, it still shows a drastic improvement from past decades. And robberies, non-fatal shootings, and car-jackings still decreased. Detroit still has one of the highest crime rate’s of the country, but it’s on the decline. That’s big news for the people of Detroit.

What Led to the Decrease in Crime?

The decrease wasn’t sudden. But there are several changes that can be credited with the decrease. First, there was the declaration of bankruptcy in 2013. The city of Detroit filed for a Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Doing so gave the city the ability to take some action against crime. Before filing, police dealt with a pay cut. After it, they were given a raise. This pay increase improved morale on the force.

The bankruptcy also let the city work on other improvements. Thousands of abandoned houses were scattered throughout the city, and all that empty space made it easier for criminals to hide out. But after filing for bankruptcy, the city started to tear down some of those buildings. Instead of focusing on paying back an incredible amount of debt, the city could finally repair itself.

One major factor that led to a lower crime rate was the relationship between police and the residents of Detroit. That relationship had been rocky in the 60s and 70s, and it never made a recovery until recently. When the relationship improved, people started to speak up about crime. When someone witnessed a crime, they went to the police instead of ignoring it or trying to take matters into their own hands. Another benefit of the relationship was the morale of police officers. Knowing they have the support of the city makes them happier and more effective at reducing crime.

The police even started hiring civilians to fill desk jobs. This helped out the local economy by offering the unemployed a place to work.

The Future of Crime in Detroit

What else do the police have planned? They’ve looked at the crime data and came up with an idea. In 2013, there were 302 homicides in Detroit. Of those homicides, over 100 of them were due to arguments between people. Many of them are believed to be previously incarcerated, so the police plan to speak with the Michigan Department of Corrections to help former felons to adjust to the world. By doing this, the police hope to reduce the Detroit crime rate further.

There’s also hope that the improving economy will reduce crime. Detroit has recently become home to many new start-ups. Between 2010 and 2015, personal income has risen about 13%. In that same period, median home values in the city have increased by 21%. Things are looking up for the economy, and that could be perfect for decreasing crime.

How Does the Drop in the Detroit Crime Rate Affect You?

Detroit isn’t out of the woods yet. The city still has a crime rate higher than most cities. There are still violent crimes and the city is far from complete restoration. But it is taking steps in the right direction, and the future is bright.

About Us

Gary M. Wilson began trying cases in 1988 in the Office of the Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney in Detroit, Michigan. In 1992 he entered private trial practice as a criminal defense lawyer. Licensed to practice in Michigan and Massachusetts, he has also been admitted to practice before the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan.


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  • Wilson Law
    21002 Mack Avenue
    Grosse Pointe Woods, MI 48236
    Phone: 313-246-8885

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Wilson Law - Detroit DUI Lawyer Wilson Law
21002 Mack Avenue
Grosse Pointe Woods, MI 48236
FREE CONSULTATION: 313-246-8885