By J. PATRICK PEPPER
While crime rates declined in most parts of the country last year, around metropolitan Detroit it was on the rise, according to national data released last week.
The finalized 2009 data came as part of the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, a voluntary city, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement program that provides a nationwide view of crime based on statistics submitted by law enforcement agencies throughout the country.
The crime categories tracked by the UCR are violent crime, murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, aggravated assault, rape, arson, robbery, burglary, property crimes, larceny and car theft. Some categories, like property crimes and violent crime, encompass a number of different offenses.
Dearborn Heights registered double-digit percentage increases in four categories compared to 2008. Most pronounced, at 22 percent, was the number of aggravated assaults, which jumped from 132 in 2008 to 170 last year. The next-largest increase was in the number of violent crimes, which increased 17 percent – 250 compared to 208 – from 2008.
Also showing double-digit increases were the number of reported burglaries and robberies, which followed the trend across the region. Property crimes and larceny, which is considered a property crime, increased 5 percent and 7 percent, respectively.
Dearborn Heights Police Chief Lee Gavin attributed the rise in violent crime, which comprises aggravated assaults as well as other offenses, to an increase in domestic disturbances. While he said it’s impossible to know exactly what caused the increase, he said it likely has something to with the poor economy.
“People are becoming more and more weary of the bad economic circumstances, financial pressures are growing and their patience is just gone,” Gavin said.
Crimes committed less often in 2009 in Dearborn Heights include car theft, which fell by more than 22 percent year to year.
Murder, rape and arson also were down, though the relatively low frequency of those offenses makes it hard to glean any statistical relevance. To wit: Between 2008 and 2009, the highest number of offenses registered for any of the three categories was 13 arsons in 2008. Further, there was only one murder in the city in 2008, while none were reported in 2009.
The stats in Dearborn, meanwhile, mostly offered a positive break from regional trends. Violent crimes fell 12 percent compared to 2008, robberies were down 28 percent and property crimes fell 2 percent. Jibing with regional trends, car thefts fell 30 percent.
Crimes reported with increased frequency included larceny and aggravated assault which both jumped 2 percent or less, year to year. The largest increase aside from murder – which increased from zero in 2008 to three last year – was in burglaries. Last year the city registered just over 700, or about 17 percent more than the roughly 600 reported in 2008.
Like his Dearborn Heights counterpart, Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad said attributed the increases in crime to economic factors.
“We have people who are more desperate now than they have ever been,” Haddad said. “We’ve seen a lot of cases where guys who have led otherwise respectable lives resort to crime because they’ve run out of options.”
As for the lesser-than crime increases relative to surrounding communities, Haddad credited expanded community policing initiatives and an investigative process that has zeroed in on habitual offenders.
“We’re really looking to target those guys who are professionals, the career criminals,” Haddad said. “And the community outreach effort, through Nixle (a Web-based information update service) and other initiatives, has really helped to keep our residents aware.”