Detroit was once the industrial capital of the nation. But, decades of economic decline and a ruinous recession have turned the Motor City into America’s crime capital.
For the fourth years in a row, Forbes.com has rated Detroit, Michigan, as the most dangerous city in the country — with a violent crime rate of 2,137 per 100,000 residents.
Many of the other places on the list are also declining industrial powerhouse cities that have been left ravaged by dwindling blue-collar jobs and rising unemployment.
Baltimore, Maryland, ranked number seven; Cleveland, Ohio, number nine; and Buffalo, New York, number ten; all share Detroit’s fate to one degree or another.
Seismic changes in the auto industry have left tens of thousands of people out of work in Detroit as automakers and parts suppliers shrank in size and began to rely more heavily on labor-saving technology.
The unemployment rate is currently 19.6 percent, nearly two and a half times the national average.
Crime is so bad in Detroit that at a recent town hall meeting, Mayor Dave Bing was booed and heckled by his own police officers.
‘What are you doing to stop the attack as far as blight, the drugs, the murder?’ officer Marcus Cummings demanded, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Detroit has lost more than 200,000 residents in the last decade as citizens fled the blighted city for better-off suburbs with lower crime and better school.
Forbes pointed out that even with the population drop, there were 344 murders last year, compared with 395 in 2001.
The police department was forced to fire 200 police officers last year as the city struggled to cope with massive budget shortfalls from declining tax revenue as people left and businesses closed their doors.
Poverty and high unemployment figure prominently among the most violent cities in the nation. Each of them have higher unemployment rates than the rest of the nation.
Oakland, California, number three; Memphis, Tennessee, number four; Birmingham Alabama, number five; and Stockton, California, number eight; have all struggled with high poverty rates for many years.
Unemployment in Stockton, 17.8 percent, is only marginally lower than it is in Detroit.
St Louis, Missouri, number two, and Atlanta, Georgia, number six, both stand at the crossroads of major drug trafficking corridors and are plagued by especially violent drug crime. Stockton also lies on a key drug trafficking route — between the Mexican cartels and the Pacific northwest.
Criminologists, and police chiefs in the cities themselves, warn that the data behind the ranking, the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics, offers shaky ground for comparing cities.
The FBI’s numbers depend on how thoroughly the local police departments record and report their own crime statistics.
However, most of the cities listed have been ranked among the most dangerous for years.
And most of them also have the highest murder rates — one crime stat that’s hard to fudge.
After all, as the saying goes, it’s possible for police commanders massage robberies to make them look like thefts, and downplay nonfatal shootings. It’s much more difficult to hide a body.