By Bill Shuette
This winter, Governor Granholm delivered her eighth and final State of the State. But as in the past, only one paragraph was devoted to public safety. Most of her speech was devoted to economics. But just as there is an Index of Economic Indicators, so too, there should also be an Index of Public Safety Indicators. Let’s examine the facts:
- According to Forbes magazine, Detroit is America’s most dangerous city, reporting a rate of 1,220 violent crimes committed per 100,000 people.
- CQ Press reports that Detroit had the highest rate among America’s 33 biggest cities, according to the FBI crime rate rankings calculated using six crime categories — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft.
- The Detroit News reported that in 2008, the Detroit Police Dept recorded a homicide closure rate of less than 35%. Put another way, two-thirds of homicides in the City of Detroit went unsolved.
In a comparison of Great Lakes states:
- Michigan has the highest rate of violent crime;
- Michigan has the highest rate of unsolved violent crime;
- Michigan has the fewest number of police officers per capita; and,
- Michigan sends the fewest felons to prison per capita.
- And Michigan’s State Police crime labs have a backlog of nearly 18,000 cases. Another 10,000 rape kits also remain unprocessed from the closed Detroit police crime lab. A State Police captain reports that if one technician had nothing else to do, it would take him or her 58 years to complete the testing of the kits.
Furthermore, since 9/11, Michigan has lost more than 1,900 law enforcement officers. At the same time, Lansing’s leaders have closed eight prisons and prison camps, and more than 3,000 prisoners are being released earlier than normal.
If safeguarding the public is the vey first obligation of government, then the leaders in Lansing are failing in their fundamental task. Michigan citizens are less safe than they were a decade ago. The simple fact is that our state’s economic recovery and realignment will forever be at risk if Lansing continues to pursue policies that endanger the safety and security of Michigan’s families.
Michigan needs more cops on the street. Funding could come from reforms to the Department of Corrections (DOC). For example, Saginaw County Jail food service costs are 50% of the food service costs of the DOC. Or, all prisoners, both at the state and county jail level, could have their health coverages pooled to save funds that could be re-invested in police. Prisons and jails could also partner with medical schools across the state to lower doctor and nursing costs.
There are many reforms Lansing can undertake, but one thing is clear: Michigan deserves better. It’s time to put safety first