Detroit downtown getting safer all the time

A recently released report has shown that overall crime in downtown Detroit has gone down significantly in recent years, due largely to aggressive and effective police enforcement that has yielded noticeable results. This is certainly good news since a reduction of crime anywhere in the city should be regarded as a plus, especially in light of the city’s relatively recent designation as the most violent city in America.Understandably, Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Larry Alexander is extremely pleased with the results of the study since his job is largely to attract more business and conventions to Detroit, getting heavy hitters to buy into the Detroit Renaissance narrative to be willing to come and see for themselves — and then spend a lot of money and spread the word. So it’s no surprise that Alexander was instrumental in getting this report produced, something that he is not trying to run away from. Alexander acknowledges that although he understands the importance and necessity of improving the quality of life in Detroit’s neighborhoods outside of downtown, his primary clientele is focused solely on downtown because that is where they spend their time and dollars when they are here. It’s that 7.2 square miles that concerns them most which makes it Alexander’s primary concern as well.“The question we’ve always heard about is crime in Detroit. What’s happening with the crime? Why can’t you improve on your crime statistics? Well, my first reaction is we’re not in the police business. Our business is attracting businesses. But the more we got into it, the more we realized that this was something that is critically important to our customers,” said Alexander.“The more we talked about it the more we realized we had to step up to the plate and get some credible data.”Which is why the Bureau commissioned David Martin, who serves as program director for Urban Safety in the Department of Urban Studies, to conduct the study, and he is certainly quali­fied for the task. According to his WSU bio, “Dr. Martin specializes in policy analysis, program evaluation and computer programming, specializing in crime mapping and analy­sis of police and community data. Over the past 10 years, he has developed soft­ware and web applications for the com­puterized mapping and spatial analysis of data from police and fire departments. His software is used by several police de­partments to support CompStat­style ac­countability processes and strategic crime fighting. He is also currently a re­search partner for a U.S. Department of Justice­sponsored crime reduction initia­tive in Detroit.”The idea was to find out how Detroit’s downtown compared to other major cities to see how we stacked up, and the re­sults were impressive. Especially when it came to how dramatically the downtown crime statistics have improved in recent years. There’s much to be proud of. How­ever, the huge impact of Rock Ventures CEO Dan Gilbert’s private security force, not to mention all those security camer­as downtown (also courtesy of Gilbert), brings into question how much the de­crease in crime is the result of Detroit police tactics and how much is a result of private security measures.Once again, a drop in the crime rate is a good thing. No two ways about that. But no other neighborhood in Detroit is the beneficiary of a private security force, nor is that ever likely to happen. So not to make note of this disparity would be somewhat disingenuous to say the least. Unless we can show that what’s happen­ing downtown is a preview of what’s to come for Detroit neighborhoods — mean­ing separating out how much more ef­fective Detroit policing has become and putting that most violent city title to rest — then a large problem remains.That said, here are some of the re­sults of the study which were highlight­ed in a press release given to reporters at a recent press conference touting the results.“The most significant percentage of crime reduction has occurred with regard to robbery, which is down 47% compared to 2013 (a reduction of 133 robberies). Larceny (theft) has fallen each year since 2013 but remains the most common crime committed downtown — about two­thirds of all major crime.”For 2016, downtown Detroit ranked 8th among the ten comparison cities in terms of the frequency and concentration of major crimes — controlling for differ­ences in the size of the downtown areas. In the last comparison study completed in 2013, downtown Detroit ranked second, behind only downtown Baltimore.Significant crime reductions have oc­curred since 2013, most notably in street robbery, most of which occur during late hours on weekends. Robbery has fallen nearly 50% compared to 2013. Detroit now ranks 6th among the ten comparison cities.Auto thefts increased in downtown Detroit during 2016 (almost one theft per day). Brush Park, Greektown and Campus Martius have yet to show equiv­alent reductions shared by other down­town areas. The area surrounding Little Caesar’s Arena is also expected to be problematic for the foreseeable future.For July through December 2017, prop­erty crime numbers are 30% lower than during 2016. Better coordination between DPD and private security is thought to be a large part of the reason for this.

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