"Murder Capital" Flint, Michigan On Target For Fewest Murders In Years
Formerly known as the "Murder Capital of America," Flint, Michigan is set to see the fewest murders since the 1990s.
"FLINT, MI – The city is on pace to finish the year with fewest homicides since the modern-day low nearly 20 years ago.
Flint had 13 homicides as of Monday, June 23, putting it on pace for 26 slayings by year's end. The city saw a modern-day low of 19 homicides in 1997.
It would be a far cry from just two years ago, when a record-setting 67 people were slain in Flint.
There were 26 homicides at this point last year and 32 at the same time in 2012.
Still, city officials are not celebrating the numbers.
[']We can talk about numbers all the time, but that doesn’t do anything for the people who are victims of this crime,['] said police Chief James Tolbert. [']Idealistically, what we’re looking for is a community that is so engaged that these numbers drop even further.[']
Added Tolbert, [']If we put a police officer in every living room in the city of Flint, somebody would go to the kitchen and commit a crime,['] Tolbert said. [']It’s a utopian dream, but we’ve got to have a goal. Our goal is to prevent crime.[']
Other crime in the city is down too, Tolbert said. In the first six months of 2014, compared to the same time period last year, Tolbert said:
- Criminal Sexual Conduct is down 28 percent
- Robbery is down 53 percent
- Felonious assault is down almost 2 percent
- Burglary is down 28 percent
Officials credit the lower homicide numbers to increased community engagement, more Michigan State Police troopers embedded in Flint and cooperation with city, state and federal agencies.
There are 40 state police troopers embedded in Flint, Tolbert said, and Gov. Rick Snyder has given the city $2.5 million to keep the Flint City Lockup open. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Flint also has pledged to charge criminals who violate gun laws in federal court.
[']The efforts over the last few years to get the most violent offenders off the streets and behind bars have slowed the rate of violent crime,['] said Mayor Dayne Walling. [']The community is coming together to provide information to solve crime so that violent offenders are being put away for a longer period of time.[']
Flint resident Dee Rock said he notices a difference as he walked down West Bundy Avenue near Dupont Street on an afternoon earlier this month.
[']There are more people out walking to the store,['] he said. [']The state police is cleaning it up.[']
Tolbert said that collaboration that puts 45 MSP troopers in Flint is crucial.
[']Our biggest partner right now is the state police,['] he said. [']Obviously if they were not here – you talk about infusing 40 troopers into the department and into investigations and various aspects of patrol – that’s a lot of people. That’s just a good thing to have. We’ve got to keep that up.[']
First Lt. Tom Deasy said the MSP is able to help the Flint Police Department after years of budget cuts thinned the number of city officers.
[']Obviously, the Flint Police Department has lost a number of officers,['] said Deasy, the Flint Post commander for the MSP. [']With us being able to partner with them and be able to fill in where they lost officers has been key.[']
Flint hit its low mark for homicides in 1997, which came after three consecutive years of 40 or more slayings.
There were more than 30 homicides in each of the next two years after Flint’s record low.
[']It’s not about one good month or one good year, it's about a sustained reduction in crime to improve the quality of life in Flint,['] Walling said.
Rock said he is realistic about the city setting a record for the fewest homicides in a year.
[']I doubt it,['] he said about the probability of Flint finishing the year with less than 19 killings. [']It’s just now getting warm. It’s different in Flint [today]. It’s kids killing kids. There’s not the same home model.[']
Just down the street from where Rock was walking, in the 700 block of West Bundy Avenue, 20-year-old Jalen Lewis was shot to death inside a home on March 3. Lewis’ death marked the fifth homicide in Flint this year and is one of just two killings this year without an arrest.
[']The Flint police have been doing excellent work in cooperation with the Michigan State Police in policing the city and you’re seeing the results,['] said Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, adding that there also is help from other agencies like the U.S. Attorney’s Office. [']Crime is a very complex issue. This is an ongoing battle. It hasn’t been won and we’re not even close to winning it.[']
Deasy said there should be warrant requests coming soon for two homicides from this year where there haven’t been arrests.
Homicides are investigated by teams in the city, Deasy said. There is one city police detective and an MSP detective on every case.
[']It’s been such a good partnership. We are on track to solve all 13. That’s unheard of,['] he said. [']We’ve essentially doubled the size of the detective bureau.[']
Leyton said there are several factors that have pushed crime down in the city and include incarcerating violent offenders, fewer residents in Flint, increased state police patrols, new police leadership in Tolbert, an increased awareness factor by residents and more prosecutors through the Secured Cities Initiative and a better economy that has led to more jobs.
He also said the increased level of cooperation between city, county, state and federal agencies is [']unprecedented.[']
Witness cooperation is an area that Leyton said still needs work. People are still reluctant to testify in court, he said.
[']Thirteen homicides is still too many for a community the size of Flint,['] Leyton said. [']We still need people to step forward, to raise their hand and tell the truth on the witness stand. We’re still battling that issue.[']
One example of the progress in fighting crime is the level of interaction with the Flint Police Department’s Facebook page, in Twitter and through CrimeStoppers tips coming in, Tolbert said.
[']Every week we’re arresting somebody for something and we’re putting that information out,['] he said. ['](Criminals) realize too that the men and women of the Flint Police Department and our other law enforcement partners are on the job and people are going to or they’re getting arrested for the crimes they are alleged to have committed.[']
Another imitative on the horizon, Tolbert said, is a citizen’s radio patrol where [']you’ll know when someone is in your community who shouldn’t be there, someone we should ‘lookout’ for,['] he said.
[']When the community brings things to light, people stand up and they enjoy that type of safety,['] he added.
One of the community partnerships is with Kenyetta Dotson with Church Without Walls and WOW Outreach.
Each year, WOW Outreach hosts an annual unity march against violence.
Dotson said Tolbert’s personality and leadership style have helped to bring different community organizations together and to make an impact that pushes crime statistics down.
But it’s not enough, Dotson said.
[']We can’t get comfortable,['] she said. [']If one person is taken away from our community due to violence, than that is one too many. We have to continue to work just as hard as if the numbers were at 100 or the numbers were at 50.[']"