DETROIT – Carjackings, robberies and non-fatal shootings dropped in Detroit in 2016, while the number of homicides in the city edged up by seven, according to figures from the police department.
The preliminary numbers were released Tuesday to The Associated Press and show that aggravated assaults, burglaries and larcenies also were down.
Seven more homicides were committed — and Detroit still has one of the highest murder rates in the country, but the city did not see the drastic spike that Chicago reported and some other cities experienced last year.
"We're finally making that turn," Police Chief James Craig said about Detroit's overall crime numbers going down. "We're continuing to make steady progress. People are saying something is changing in Detroit and 'I feel safer.'"
There were 150 fewer carjackings. Non-fatal shootings dipped by more than 70 to 958.
"A non-fatal shooting is nothing more than an unsuccessful homicide," Craig said.
Detroit earned the nickname "Murder City" after 714 homicides were committed in 1974. The 295 committed two years ago was the city's lowest since 1967, when 281 homicides were recorded.
In 2016, there were 302 homicides in Detroit. Chicago had 762 homicides — it's most in two decades. Memphis, Tennessee, set a city record in early December when its homicide total hit 214 for the year. Homicides in Louisville, Kentucky, rose from 79 in 2015 to at least 113 last year.
Craig credits an improving relationship with Detroit residents and businesses, as well as the improved morale of police officers as helping to drive the numbers down.
Craig calls the lower numbers "progress, absolutely," but he's not waving "the flag of success."
Betty Smith, 65, has seen a difference.
"I feel safe. I don't fear out here," Smith said Tuesday afternoon while walking to her home just east of downtown. "I feel the police are doing the best they can do."
But Kenneth Reed said the police department's numbers don't tell the whole story. Reed is a spokesman for a watchdog group called the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality.
"People are still getting carjacked. Delivery drivers are being shot in their vehicles," Reed said.
"The perception may be a little safer in some areas, but out here on Mack and Garland that's not the case," said Reed, referring to a Detroit neighborhood. "On Greenfield and West Chicago they don't feel that way. A lot of people don't feel secure standing at a bus stop."