DETROIT – Detroit saw a drop in most violent crimes in 2015, the second consecutive year in which homicide totals in the city dipped to pre-1970 levels, according to newly released data.
The reduction in crime comes amid Detroit's fiscal turnaround a year after shedding billions of dollars in debt through the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. It also follows Mayor Mike Duggan's promises to attack crime as Detroit works to regrow its population, which at around 680,000 is barely of third of what it was in the 1950s.
Detroit earned the nickname "Murder City" after 714 homicides were committed in 1974 and still has among the highest crime rates in the nation. Last year's 295 homicides were four fewer than in 2014 and down 37 from two years ago. Both numbers were the city's lowest since 1967, when 281 homicides were committed.
Most other violent crime and property offenses also decreased last year, according to statistics released Wednesday to The Associated Press. From 2014 to 2015, rapes dropped from 599 to 497; robberies from 3,806 to 3,103; non-fatal shootings from 1,052 to 1,035; burglaries from 10,600 to 9,027; and stolen vehicles from 10,356 to 7,938. But the number of larcenies increased from 15,270 to 15,920.
Duggan told the AP that the city still has "a lot of work to do" to reduce crime.
"The work has only started," he said. "This city remains much too violent. This isn't a feeling we're satisfied with what we've accomplished."
Overall violent crime has been trending down elsewhere in the United States, but some cities saw jumps in homicides in 2015. Preliminary figures from Albuquerque, New Mexico, show at least 46 homicides last year — a 53 percent increase over 2014. Figures released last week by Chicago police show homicides jumped to 468 in 2015 from 416 the year before. Baltimore ended 2015 with a record 344 homicides.
Detroit officials credited the city's crime reduction to a number of factors, including a crackdown on youth violence; collaborations with federal and other local law enforcement; and the hiring of civilians to fill desk jobs, allowing more officers to be on the streets. They said officer morale also has improved as the city instituted 4-percent raises following pay cuts made before Detroit's 2013 bankruptcy filing.
"Finding ways to get some of that officers' money back ... was critical," Chief James Craig said. "Cops do count. If cops are engaged, we have an effect on crime."
Al Conway, 46, who lives in Detroit and works a hot dog stand near City Hall, feels safe enough that he openly counted early afternoon earnings while discussing the crime rate.
"I've been down here for three years and I keep my money out ... no trouble at all," Conway said Wednesday.
"Any crime is too high," he said. "Things happen everywhere. You have a very small group of people that's going to make it bad for everybody."