Among the hundreds of weapons that police collected in church parking lots as part of a citywide gun buyback this week were many that apparently hadn’t been fired for years or even decades.
But other guns in the city are being fired at alarming rates, pushing homicides in Detroit up 17 percent this year and nonfatal shootings up 27 percent.
As of Monday, there were 237 homicides this year, most of which were gun-related, compared with 203 in the same period last year. Nonfatal shootings have risen even more sharply, with a January-July total of 877, compared with 693 in the first seven months of 2005.
If the current pace keeps up, Detroit will exceed 400 killings by the end of the year. Last year’s total was 359, and the grim statistic last exceeded 400 in 2002.
“I am real concerned, and I have been throughout the year,” Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings told The Associated Press last week after announcing the gun buyback. “What we’re seeing is that the victims are young black males between the ages of 18 and 30 and, unfortunately, the perpetrators are in that same group. We see that most of our shootings have a narcotic nexus to it, and I have to be concerned.”
The Motor City became known as the “Murder City” after it logged 714 homicides in 1974. But crime in Detroit decreased throughout the 1990s, as it did in the United States as a whole. The number of homicides fell from 615 in 1991 to 396 in 2000.
However, the population has also fallen since then, and Detroit continues to have one of the highest per capita murder rates in the nation.
This year’s spike has gone mostly without comment—a sign, some say, that residents have become inured to violence.
What exactly has changed this year to cause killings to go up is unclear. Bully-Cummings said she was looking forward to comparing notes with chiefs and mayors from around the country in a few weeks at a violent crime summit organized by the Police Executive Research Forum.
Detroit—When it comes to street crime in the city, even well-known Detroiters are not immune.
In the past week, Denise Ilitch, a lawyer and daughter of Detroit pizza magnate Mike Ilitch, and Wayne Circuit Judge Leonard Townsend were crime victims.
Ilitch was walking from her car to a political function in the 8000 block of Kercheval around 4:45 p.m. July 25 when two men approached her and demanded her purse, police said. Ilitch handed it over, and the two fled.
A police spokesman said they were apprehended a short time later, and Ilitch’s purse was recovered with money and contents intact.
However, police had to release the two men when Ilitch could not positively identify them in a lineup. Ilitch could not be reached for comment.
Townsend said he was robbed at gunpoint Friday night in front of his home in Detroit, and his vehicles were stolen before the next morning.
He said it was at least the third such robbery in his neighborhood. Townsend said the robber went through his pockets and took his car keys, wallet and briefcase.
“The police said they would patrol around, and they would watch the house, so I could relax,” he said.
“I got up the next day, and both of my cars were gone.”