Crime figures were released last week by the Detroit Police Department and the news wasn’t good when it came to homicides. The city has seen 23 more homicides compared to the same third-quarter period in 2010, marking a 31% increase. Overall, 2011 murders have jumped 19% and the department says it’s largely the fault of offenders already on probation.
“It’s important to note those who are constantly causing havoc in the community…have been placed on probation,” says Inspector Dwane Blackmon of the Department’s homicide unit.
It isn’t clear if Blackmon is implying these people should have been off the streets to begin with or if he is making a general observation. While no one can predict who will commit a murder and who will be a successful probationer, many people see probation as a walk in the park or a free ride for a convicted criminal.
While it’s true that probation is definitely easier than jail time, it’s far from a walk in the park and the courts are cautious about who is granted this suspended sentence and who is required to serve time.
Judges take many things into consideration when determining who will receive a suspended sentence. Often, the prosecutor plays a major role in this determination as well, through the use of plea bargains. A defendant may agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence (probation). But it’s rare that the prosecution and then the judge would agree to such a bargain if there was any indication that the defendant would become violent if allowed back on the streets.
The city’s homicides aren’t telling the whole story, though. Violent crimes dropped overall in the third quarter, about 11% overall for the year so far. Burglaries saw a 10.78% drop and rapes are down 6.2%.
The city is concerned that the increased homicide rate is due to lack of community involvement, because people are reluctant to work with police. “The community has to wake up and see the importance of protecting their community. The community has to get involved,” said one concerned resident.
Last summer the police began “Operation Inside Out: Night Angels” to assist in quelling the violence. This program deployed officers who would normally work a desk job to an 8 hour patrol shift once per week. This program put 40 to 50 additional officers on patrol on each shift.
Visible members of the community and the police alike see a need for cooperation to reduce crime overall but acknowledging it and making it work are two different things.