When Detroit Police Chief James White stepped into his new role in June 2021, homicides and non-fatal shootings in the city had increased over the same time frame from the previous year, a reality many of his law enforcement colleagues in other cities were also facing. 

By the end of the year, both categories saw slight reductions, a stark difference from what many cities across the country saw over the course of an especially violent year. 

In 2021, the Motor City saw a 4% reduction in murders, a 9% drop in non-fatal shootings and an 18% decline in robberies. The city ended the year with 309 murders, compared to 323 in 2020. 


Detroit Police Chief James White

Detroit Police Chief James White said the city saw a slight reduction in homicides in 2021, a figure not seen in many regions amid a surge in violence crime. (Fox News )

"I walked into some significant increases in homicides… and right out the gate I asked the mayor for some dollars and he was happy to get them to me," White told Fox News last week. 

The extra funds allowed the Detroit Police Department to increase overtime by 4,000 hours and add patrols by up to 300 officers. 

The chief's five-point plan focused on several areas: increased police presence, parking and code enforcement, community engagement, combating drag racing and a heavy emphasis on noise enforcement.

The Detroit neighborhood where a shooting occurred

The Detroit neighborhood where a shooting occurred.  (Detroit Police Department)

The goal was to focus on places where crowds gather and on quality of life issues, the chief said. 

White, a 24-year veteran of the police department, was the director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights when he was tapped to take over as interim chief in June 2021 upon the retirement of Chief James Craig amid rumors he was eying a run for governor. 

At the time, the city was grappling with 23 more murders and 118 more non-fatal shootings than it had in the same time frame in 2020. 

"When you look at a 20% increase walking in and then you see a 4% reduction by the end of the year, that tells you that your strategies are moving in the right direction," White said. "From a benchmarking standpoint, yes we've had some reductions that we're proud of, but at the same time, those numbers mean nothing when you've got to tell a mother that her son was shot or a wife that her husband was shot."

White became the city's permanent police chief in August.

Detroit Police Chief James White and Farmington Hills Police Chief Jeff King

Detroit Police Chief James White and Farmington Hills Police Chief Jeff King speak about a case during a news conference  (Detroit Police Department)

The news of Detroit's crime reduction came as other cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston were seeing increasing levels of violence. In Los Angeles, the city ended the year with nearly 400 killings, which accounted for a 15-year high. 


Homicides in Houston saw a 71% uptick from 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a nationwide crime surge. New York City went the opposite direction of Detroit with recorded 485 murders last year, a 4% increase from the 468 killings the previous year.