Despite drop in crime, Detroit homicides up 12%
Jan 14, 2012 (Detroit Free Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Despite a 12% increase in homicides from 2010 to 2011, Detroit experienced an overall decrease in serious crime, according to preliminary statistics released Friday by the Detroit Police Department.
Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said there were roughly 7,300, or 8%, fewer incidents of Part I crimes last year -- which include homicide, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, larceny and auto theft -- than in 2010. Homicides jumped from 308 victims in 2010 to 344 in 2011.
"Are we satisfied with homicide numbers? Absolutely not," he said. "But promises made, promises kept. We've delivered on reducing violent crime."
Godbee provided 2005-11 crime statistics reported to the FBI that show a 17% decline in serious crime, including a 5% downward trend in homicides. However a recent Free Press analysis found Detroit often leads the nation's big cities in homicide rates.
The chief said it is important to look at the numbers over a span of time, particularly as staffing has decreased by nearly 500 sworn officers during the same time period.
Godbee attributed the overall drop in serious crime to hardworking police officers and community involvement.
Detroit police chief lauds citizen patrols, officers' work for 8% decrease in crime
Each day George Stewart leaves his eastside home to patrol the streets around Osborn High School and Brenda Scott Middle School. He looks for fights among students or other suspicious activity.
As a member of Men Affirming Discipline and Education -- MADE Men -- he works with Detroit police and district officers to promote safety around schools. The retired Chrysler employee takes the afternoon shift, keeping watch as school is dismissed.
"I grew up here in Detroit, and I don't like how it's going down," Stewart, 60, said of the crime. "If I can do something to help, I will. If I don't do something, I can't complain when things go wrong."
Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. credits Stewart, his organization and other community groups, such as Detroit 300 and Brothers on Patrol, which have rallied to help patrol and solve crimes in the city with the 8% drop in serious crime.
"We have had the support of the community to help propel us toward the numbers you see here relative to reductions in ... crime," Godbee said at a news conference Friday. The chief was joined by members of those organizations as he announced preliminary crime statistics for 2011.
Although homicides rose 12%, from 308 victims in 2010 to 344 in 2011, Godbee said there were about 7,300 fewer instances of Part I crimes -- which include homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft -- than in 2010.
"If there is blame to be given for the 36 more homicides, I'll take the blame for that," he said. "But if there is credit to be given for the 7,300 (fewer) Part I crimes, then I want these men and women, and the men and women of the Detroit Police Department to get the full credit they deserve for the work that they do."
Godbee said Detroit homicide investigators solved 50% -- or 172 -- of the 344 murders of 2011. Investigators solved 50% of the city's homicide cases in 2010, as well. Godbee said the average closure rate for cities with more than 500,000 residents is 53%.
But he noted that homicide investigators are carrying nearly double the caseload -- the national average is seven cases per year, but Detroit homicide detectives average 12.
"Any loss of life is tragic, and every member of this community is owed an explanation and a thorough investigation into the loss of their loved one," Godbee said.
Godbee described officers' work keeping Detroit safe as "Herculean efforts they have done with scarce resources."
"When I began my tenure as chief of police, I made a vow and a pledge to the community that I would be very transparent," Godbee said. "We would not play with numbers nor would we hide numbers because it does a disservice to our community for people not to have accurate information relative to the crime situation in the city of Detroit."
N.Y. model emulated
Despite the city's fiscal challenges, Godbee said he will continue to structure the department to address appropriate community needs. He said the city also began working with a consultant to create a policing framework that would address ways to combat quality of life issues and smaller crimes, which often lead to more serious offenses.
The city entered into an 18-month agreement with renowned social scientist George Kelling, whose "broken window" theory offers zero tolerance and the belief that a reduction in petty crime can lead to a reduction in more serious offenses. The crime-fighting campaign has been successful in New York City.
"We are resolved to gaining every efficiency we can, and we're not done yet," Godbee said.
Contact Suzette Hackney: 313-222-6678 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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