Detroit’s future hinges on reducing its high crime rate to allow newcomers to venture back into the city. The city has restructured its police department, putting more police on the streets, and has adopted state-of-the-art multifaceted programs that other cities like Chicago are implementing to mitigate youth violence, yet crime persists. Modifications to the status quo will not affect crime quickly enough to curb what has become a violent roadblock to Detroit’s future. What is required is a radical departure from past practice. Detroit needs a major step improvement toward a safer community if it is to recover.
The city is collapsing in debt and depopulation. Yet, a radical departure from the status quo seems almost too dystopic a medicine to take, even for a city that faces bankruptcy. Detroit is just as polarized as the country over how to reduce crime, and Detroit’s community reaction to past police performance has been a divisive obstacle to major change. So without a clear path forward, radical change seems daunting. However, a comparison of the extreme right and left views of America’s think tanks regarding crime suggests that while their viewpoints may differ, the similarities of their stances indicate that a clear path forward might be possible.
While their solutions may be different, they both speak of the same root causes of crime. They couch them differently for each side’s solutions must fit the entirety of their differing political views. Therefore, each side focuses on different symptoms of the root cause, and their solutions focus on resolving those different symptoms. A holistic solution, however, must encompass the root of each extreme’s problems and solutions.
What do conservatives suggest is the root cause of crime? The Heritage Foundation suggests that crime is the outcome of failing families. They cite numerous studies that show that crime is committed most by those raised without fathers. Yet, the Heritage Foundation seems to negate the nexus between crime and poverty.
The Cato Institute supports the Heritage Foundation’s conclusion regarding single parent families stating that, “the relationship is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race, low income, and crime.” Yet the Institute also states that both violent crime and property crime are highly related to economic conditions.
The National Academy of Sciences agrees with their positions regarding single-family households and further suggests that jail policies, which create a lack of young, marriage age males in a third of Black families, excessively exacerbates the problem of fatherless homes.
The progressive think tank Economic Policy Institute does not disagree that dysfunctional families lead to crime. In fact, EPI suggests that dysfunctional families lead to poor school performance, high dropout rates, and then to crime. Yet EPI suggests that poverty is the root cause of disruptive families.
The liberal think tank Economic Policy Research reasons that dropouts do not qualify for 90% of jobs, leading to high unemployment, and argues that unemployment is directly correlated to burglary, rape, robbery and assault.
The progressive think tank Center for American Progress supports EPI’s claim that poverty is a root cause. They point to President Clinton’s policies as having been the solution that drove a drop in crime rate more than any other time in U.S. history. They state that lack of work, lack of police on the streets, high poverty rates, a shrinking middle class, underperforming schools, and lack of affordable housing was a combined reason for higher crime rates that Clinton’s policies corrected.
The above examples suggest that conservatives focus on the destruction of the family as the root cause of crime, without then connecting the impact of extreme poverty and lack of hope for any change of circumstances to the destruction of the family. The examples also suggest that liberals point to social disruption caused by poverty as the root cause of crime without acknowledging the breakdown of family as a key component in that social disruption. But both political parties are just emphasizing aspects of the root cause and solutions that align with their party’s platform. Detroit, however, must cut through the political clutter and create a bold solution that will reverse the city’s plight now.
To create a clear path forward, Detroit’s factions must agree on principles of crime reduction. In the spirit of survival, acknowledging that each sides understanding of the issues may not be mutually exclusive, is in order. By doing so, the left and right might agree to the bold solution that meets each other’s political needs while restoring the City of Detroit. Disregarding for the while how to achieve them, the following principles are critical to Detroit’s crime transformation and should be supported by Detroit’s bold solution:
.1. Families remaining intact
.2. Detroit’s single-parent families gaining community support
.3. Detroit’s youth having safe and successful learning opportunities from pre-school through high school
.4. All teens graduating from Detroit’s high school, functionally literate
.5. Teens delaying marriage, cohabitation, and child rearing until financially secure
.6. Kids having financial and social alternatives to crime during school years
.7. High school graduates having a reasonable expectation of a living wage job if they choose to work after
high school graduation
.8. High school graduates from all socioeconomic backgrounds that academically qualify, having access to
.9. In the decade that Detroit is transitioning to a culture of less crime, the existing subculture of
crime that has grown in a vacuum of viable alternatives, must be curbed through both preventative and
Once clear principle are in place, a bold solution set that will meet them fast enough to sustain Detroit will be the commitment that is required by all that would have Detroit recover.
These principles outlined above must now be added to those of Detroit’s other stakeholders to achieve a holistic solution that meets the needs of all stakeholders, not the least of which are the 700,000 citizens who are struggling each day to raise their families in a hostile, crime filled environment in which 60% are either victims or witnesses to crime.
After years of decline, Detroit’s murder rate has risen for several years, peaking at 411 in 2012. Detroit is named the most dangerous city in America. If following the principles outlined above will curb Detroit’s high crime rate but Detroit is the most dangerous city in America, then a gap should exist between the stated principles and how well Detroit fares against them.
How well does Detroit compare to principles for low crime?
Principle 1. Keep Families intact
From 9% in 1960, 80% of families in Detroit are single parent today
Principle 2. Give community support to Detroit’s single-parent families
Detroit communities have been damaged by blight and depopulation. Detroit is focusing on bringing communities back together and Corporate sponsors such as Ford have prioritized investment in community development. Organizations from Jewish Federation to Goodwill organize to support single parents. Yet, 40% of single parent families in Detroit are living in poverty.
Principle 3. Ensure all students pass each grade proficiency and are safe from pre-school through high school
Mt. Elliot neighborhood is listed in top 25 most dangerous neighborhoods in America. Chances of being victim of a violent crime in any one year is 1 in 9. Organizations like Take Action are actively working to reduce violence against Detroit Youth. Yet only 4% of Detroit eighth graders can pass minimal standards in math and only 22% of Detroit kids graduate from High School. 79% of Detroiters do not want their kids to attend Detroit Public Schools. Detroit has formed an organization, Excellent Schools Detroit, committed to bringing Detroit’s graduation rate to 90% by 2020.
Principle 4. All teens graduate from Detroit’s high school functionally literate
.47% of Detroit Adults are functionally illiterate.
Principle 5. Ensure Teens delay marriage, cohabitation, and child rearing until financially secure
Since 1990, Detroit’s teen pregnancy rate has been cut in half to 103 per 1,000, yet is still 300% higher than the national average of 31. Detroit ranks #1 of American cities in the rate of unmarried births.
Principle 6. Kids having financial and social alternatives to crime during school years
In 2012, Detroit youth unemployment was 42%.
Principle 7. High school graduates having a reasonable expectation of a living wage job if they choose to work after high school graduation
.50% of Detroit’s workers age 25 and under that have jobs make minimum wage.
Principle 8. High school graduates from all socioeconomic backgrounds that academically qualify, having access to college
In 2012, only 2% of Detroit’s graduating seniors were deemed capable of performing college level work.
Principle 9. In the decade that Detroit is transitioning to a culture of less crime, the existing subculture of crime that has grown in a vacuum of viable alternatives, must be curbed through both preventative and policing means.
In 2012, the Police union spokesperson stated that Detroit is the most dangerous city in America and to enter at your own risk. He said that police officers are understaffed, overworked, demoralized, and sometimes fear for their lives. The department has reorganized to emphasize gang management.
Mitt Romney, son of Michigan Governor George Romney and recent presidential candidate stated, “for those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and marry before they have their first child, the probability that they will be poor is 2 percent. But, if those things are absent, 76 percent will be poor.” Detroit’s kids must have the opportunity to acquire the three ingredients that Romney says will put them in the 98% probability of making it out of poverty.
With such recent Detroit statistics, Detroiters should agree that drastic actions are required. What is needed is a bold, new plan.