Poll: Crime Drives Detroiters Out; 40% Expect to Leave Within 5 Years

Christine MacDonald, Detroit News, October 9, 2012

Detroit’s crime crisis is prompting such pessimism that 40 percent of residents plan to move within five years, according to a comprehensive poll of Detroiters’ attitudes about their city and leadership.

Residents overwhelmingly believe the city is on the wrong track and have no faith that city leaders have a plan to turn it around. Crime is by far their biggest worry—even higher than finding a job in a city where some put the true unemployment rate as high as 50 percent.

The survey suggests that, unless city officials can combat violence, efforts to halt decades of decline will fail. The city’s population already has fallen by 1 million over the past 50 years, and residents including Michael LaBlanc said they are ready to leave.

“There’s an aura of fear that just pervades the whole neighborhood,” said LaBlanc, 63, who installed a security system at his northeast side home last week because he’s weary of car thieves and gunfire.

“It’s almost like being in prison. We always like to have at least one person home for security sake.”

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Nearly two-thirds, 66 percent, say the city is on the wrong track. The poll found low support for all city officials except Police Chief Ralph Godbee, who retired Monday amid a sex scandal that emerged after the survey was conducted.

The survey’s author said crime is the biggest obstacle to stemming an exodus that has seen Detroit’s population drop to about 700,000. The city lost a quarter of its residents from 2000 to 2010, an average of one every 22 minutes.

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Nearly 58 percent of respondents said crime is their “biggest daily challenge.” That far surpassed unemployment and the economy at 12.8 percent.

The survey suggests that many residents who remain would like to leave but are stuck: More than half, 50.9 percent, say they would live in another city if they could, while 39.9 percent plan to move in the next five years.

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Homicides are up 10 percent this year to 298, and the city has endured a string of high-profile, brazen crimes that made international headlines, including the carjackings of gospel music star Marvin Winans and state Rep. Jimmy Womack.

Residents don’t believe city leaders can change things.

Nearly two-thirds of residents, 63 percent, say city leaders have no plans for a turnaround. The poll found an “extraordinary lack of support” for elected officials including Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council, Czuba said.

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Perhaps more worrisome to city officials: 57 percent of those who plan to leave are families with children.

Safety fears are widespread, but greater among women and those making less money: 53 percent of women feel unsafe, compared to 43 percent of men. Fifty percent or more feel unsafe in households with incomes at $50,000 or below, compared to about one-third of those making $75,000 or more.

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