Crime statistics and deadlock plague Flint Michigan

According to preliminary data released by the FBI, the city in Michigan that gave birth to General Motors a little more than 100 years ago is once again the country’s most violent large city.  During the first six months of 2012, there were approximately 1,374 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residence of Flint MI. This figure is nearly 40 percent more than the second-most violent city in the country, nearby Detroit.  The Jan. 14 report shows that Flint had more reported violent crimes per capita than any other city with a population of at least 100,000 people.

Mayor Dayne Walling, a PhD and Rhodes scholar, told the Flint Journal "The city of Flint struggled with high crime and violence. The statistics reflect that." The city police chief and a city spokesman would not comment on the FBI statistics.  The mayor said that Flint’s crime wave is caused by social and economic problems and worsened by easy access to illegal firearms and drugs.   

The Midwestern city tied a previous record in 2012 with 66 killings and approximately 31 homicides per 100,000 residents, making it the highest rate in the country. New Orleans, which has a much larger total population, had the second-highest homicide rate, with roughly 28 per 100,000 people. State governor Rick Snyder has responded to pleas for police protection by increasing the presence of state troopers in the city of Flint and surrounding Genesee County. Voters in the city overwhelmingly supported a new millage on private property that is intended to improve police response. However, a city official said that increased funding has not necessarily meant that more police are now on the street fighting crime. Flint announced after the November poll that a dozen officers would be hired, even while it was not clear whether they would be for new positions or to fill vacant positions.
 
The FBI statistics indicate that there were nearly 300 robberies per 100,000 Flint residents in early 2012. Only Oakland, Calif., Cleveland OH and Newark, N.J., had higher robbery rates. Detroit ranked fifth in the nation, with just over 283 per 100,000 people. Flint also had the most reported aggravated assaults in 2012, with nearly 992 per 100,000 residents. Detroit won second place, with roughly 648. Flint also finished just behind Minneapolis, Minn., with roughly 52 forcible rapes per 100,000. In terms of reported property crimes, Flint reached a middle level but was Number 1 in the country with roughly 1,348 burglaries per 100,000. The number of violent crimes reported by law enforcement for the first six months of 2012 increased 1.9 percent nationwide over figures from the same period in 2011.
 
Flint City Council President Scott Kincaid averred that the challenged city, which has coped with failing schools and infrastructure, outmigration and industrial collapse, needs to do better. Kincaid has said that the plans put into place by Gov. Snyder and the state-appointed emergency managers now administering the city, along with an appointed public safety director, have failed.
 
The recently made national news when it was discovered that Public Safety Director Barnett Jones, who was being paid $135,000 per year by the city of Flint for a full-time job to assist in fighting crime, was also being paid for a similar full-time job in Detroit as head of security for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. When discovered, Jones promptly resigned his position with Flint and retained his job in Detroit. Officials said Jones’ salary was paid with grant money from the C.S. Mott Foundation. However, his contract did not prohibit him from moonlighting in a second job nor did it require him to disclose it. In Detroit, Jones’s salary was set at $138.750. The city is still investigating whether or not Jones actually put in 40 hours per week on the job in Flint ever since he started work approximately 8 months ago. The current city manager, Ed Kurtz, has said that Jones may still be retained for another position in the city. 
 
Rumors are flying about the fact that Jones is employed by the Detroit water works, with which its counterpart in Flint has long been at odds over water rates. Flint residents have seen their water rates soar in recent months as the city copes with having to deal with fewer customers and aging pipes and sewers. While the city is located to next to the Flint River where it can access fresh water, plans are set to build a pipeline some 60 miles away to Lake Huron to supply the city with lake water rather than water supplied by Detroit. Jones' employment by the Detroit water works coincided with intense negotiations between the two rival cities, both of which are notable for political deadlock and charges of corruption.
 
An op-ed that appeared in the Flint Journal summed up the sentiments of many residents of Flint about Jones. "It gives that same old impression that there isn't enough oversight in Flint. That lack of oversight is what led to an emergency manager in the first place. We didn't think it would still be happening with one in place."


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

Filed under crime, politics, michigan, us, crime, government, corruption, North America

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