Forbes article leaves major component out of Detroit crime storyOctober 23, 2013
An Oct. 21 Forbes article about America’s most dangerous cities ranks Detroit at the top of the list but fails to adequately address the significant progress being made in the city.
For example, serious crime in Midtown Detroit has experienced a dramatic 50 percent drop over the past four years. This improvement is thanks in large part to a Wayne State University initiative called CompStat — a crime reduction strategy in which Wayne State’s Center for Urban Studies maps crimes and identifies problems for the Wayne State Police Department to proactively target.
Lyke Thompson, director of the Center for Urban Studies, proposed the program in 2009 as a way for the university to improve the community. Since that time, the WSUPD has doubled the number of its officers to 60. Some are paid with funds from philanthropic foundations, but the university has also spent almost $3 million a year to police the areas surrounding its main campus. In fact, 80 percent of the department’s patrols are conducted off campus. This perimeter around campus has subsequently improved the surrounding environment.
Improved crime stats are great, but money talks — and millions of dollars are being saved by residents who no longer wake up to find their car missing or their home burglarized. The Center for Urban Studies calculates that the drop in crime over the last three years has saved the Detroit community $50 million.
Police Chief Tony Holt says CompStat has transformed the way the department goes about its business. Instead of primarily doing building checks, officers are now armed with information about specific problems and proactively seek them out.
The effort, which extends to all of Midtown’s nearly five square miles, has resulted in Wayne State having one of Michigan’s safest campuses.
“Our success has been possible due to the support of each president, who has wanted Wayne State to be a good neighbor,” says Holt. “We have more students moving into the neighborhoods surrounding campus, so it’s important we support this growing community.”
It is critical to note that CompStat’s success wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration of police and security officials at the Detroit Medical Center; Henry Ford Health System; the Detroit Police Department; security officials for various institutions, Midtown’s museums and libraries; the Michigan Department of Corrections; Wayne County Sheriff’s deputies; and AmeriCorps, among others. Representatives from these organizations are an integral part of the CompStat process.
The CompStat model has proven so effective in reducing crime that plans are in the works to replicate the system in other areas of the city.
“We have an intervention that works,” says Thompson.
Because the area is secure, neighborhoods along Detroit’s Woodward corridor — including downtown and Midtown — are experiencing a cultural renaissance as young professionals and families flock to the city’s central districts.
“There’s no panacea for reducing the crime rate, but things such as housing tax incentives, new restaurants and grocery stores will lower crime rates naturally,” says Joe Rankin, Wayne State’s interim associate provost and associate vice president for undergraduate affairs and a professor of criminal justice.
There is no disputing that there is still work to be done, but Detroit is a work in progress — and that progress is not to be overlooked. If the numbers in Midtown are any indication, Detroit is on the verge of a comeback.