A new iPad-centric magazine called The Daily launched a few days ago. And, unsurprisingly, one of their first articles was about Detroit. (Nothing, after all, attracts readers like a nicely written piece of Motor City ruin porn.) I’m having a little trouble taking the magazine seriously, as they refer to themselves as “a category first: a tablet-native national news brand,” but I’m finding the statistics they cite in this article, which is about the fact that more and more people seem to be taking justice into their own hands in Detroit, to be worthy of our consideration. Here’s a clip.
…Justifiable homicide in the city shot up 79 percent in 2011 from the previous year, as citizens in the long-suffering city armed themselves and took matters into their own hands. The local rate of self-defense killings now stands 2,200 percent above the national average. Residents, unable to rely on a dwindling police force to keep them safe, are fighting back against the criminal scourge on their own. And they’re offering no apologies.
“We got to have a little Old West up here in Detroit. That’s what it’s gonna take,” Detroit resident Julia Brown told The Daily.
The last time Brown, 73, called the Detroit police, they didn’t show up until the next day. So she applied for a permit to carry a handgun and says she’s prepared to use it against the young thugs who have taken over her neighborhood, burglarizing entire blocks, opening fire at will and terrorizing the elderly with impunity.
“I don’t intend to be one of their victims,” said Brown, who has lived in Detroit since the late 1950s. “I’m planning on taking one out.”
How it got this bad in Detroit has become a point of national discussion. Violent crime settled into the city’s bones decades ago, but recently, as the numbers of police officers have plummeted and police response times have remained distressingly high, citizens have taken to dealing with things themselves.
In this city of about 700,000 people, the number of cops has steadily fallen, from about 5,000 a decade ago to fewer than 3,000 today. Detroit homicides — the second-highest per capita in the country last year, according to the FBI — rose by 10 percent in 2011 to 344 people…
As for the claim about the justifiable homicide rate jumping 79 percent, it appears to be true, but the numbers, while clearly terrible, are smaller than I would have assumed from the headline. There were, according to the records of the Detroit Police Department, 19 cases of justifiable homicide in 2010. That number jumped to 34 in 2011. I don’t know that these numbers clearly demonstrate that Detroit is completely lawless, but it’s certainly a metric to keep an eye on, and one that I hadn’t considered before.
Ironically, there’s probably an up-side to this for the Detroit police department, as these cases of justifiable homicide will bring up their percentage of solved murders, which, as I understand it, is presently one of the worst in the country. I haven’t looked into it much since the murder of my friend Jeremy Waggoner in Detroit, but I believe, the last time I checked, about 80% of the murder committed in the city were were going unsolved. (Jeremy’s case, by the way, has yet to be solved.)
At any rate, I think this is especially interesting as a number of communities around the state of Michigan, including Ypsilanti, are drastically cutting police services… Are we likely to see the number of justifiable homicide cases spike across the state? And, if so, can that be seen as an indicator that we’re finally becoming that libertarian paradise the Tea Partiers have been praying for?
update: OK, according to this article from 2010, Detroit police were, at least at that time, solving 21% of their murder cases.