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Why Detroit violence tapered off in summer after initial flurry of shootings

George Hunter, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

DETROIT — Following a bloody weekend in April that included six shootings downtown, Detroit police Chief James White launched a strategy to get a handle on the problems that annually plague Detroit during warm weather, including violent outbreaks in large crowds, raucous parties and drag racing.

When White announced his 12-point crime-fighting plan at an April 20 press conference, there had already been four homicides committed downtown in 2023, matching the previous year's total. There were no more homicides downtown throughout the summer, according to Detroit Police Department statistics. Two other categories of crime experienced increases in downtown for the April 1-Sept. 22 period, while another one experienced a precipitous decline.

Crime citywide has also fallen since White launched his plan that included using "Casper Units" — undercover cops in crowds — closing some streets; enforcing noise, open-alcohol and curfew ordinances; and adding more "eyes in the sky" with helicopter patrols and officers on rooftops.

"We've seen significant drops, not just downtown but all around town," White said about the crime trends. "We're certainly not celebrating just yet, (but) we do feel our efforts this summer to balance patrols downtown with the rest of the city have been successful, and it gives us a template to work from moving forward."

Detroit police officers patrol in the Greektown entertainment district of the city's downtown on Sept. 8, 2023. Crime in downtown and violent crime citywide have fallen since Police Chief James White launched a late April plan following a series of series of shootings and incidents earlier in the year, according to Detroit Police Department statistics.

There were 144 criminal homicides recorded in Detroit from Jan. 1-Sept. 22, down 10% from the 160 killings during the same period in 2022. The 5,579 aggravated assaults citywide through Friday represent a 3% drop from 5,741 last year, while sexual assaults declined from 360 to 349 during the period, another 3% fall. Robberies, however, rose from 729 in 2022 through Friday to 742 so far this year, a 2% rise.


White, meanwhile, said the citywide 31% plunge in carjackings from 183 in 2022 through Sept. 22 to 126 this year has been "historic."

"We're seeing record lows in carjackings, and that's thanks to the hard work of our officers and utilizing technology like license plate readers," the chief said. "We've found that criminals are often driving a stolen car before they carjack another one. LPRs allow us to see if a car is stolen, and we can flood areas where there are lots of carjackings and catch someone driving a stolen car before they steal another vehicle."

The downtown crime statistics were mixed.

For the period of April 1-Sept. 22, there were 113 aggravated assaults downtown, up 24% from 91 during the same period in 2022, according to statistics from DPD's Downtown Services Section. But from the time White announced his plan on April 20 until Sept. 22 — about five months ― there were 34 aggravated assaults or less than a third of the overall assaults recorded during the nearly six-month period, according to police officials.


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