Killa Season: Detroit’s Murder City Blues

♦ Can Detroit be Number 1 In Something Positive For Once? ♦

“Detroit turned out to be heaven, but it also turned out to be hell.”

— Marvin Gaye

DETROIT — As far back as I can remember, this city has been associated with some of the most negative aspects of American society. Detroit seems to routinely top the list on such wonderful categories as Poverty, Crime, Blight, High School Dropout Rates, Pollution, Obesity, and most recently Unemployment. However, over the last 30 years, if there was one title that this city has held more than “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair has been world champion, it’s the title of “Murder Capital” of the United States. Even though there have been points when other cities have held at least a share of the title (Chicago, St. Louis, Miami, Washington, D.C., Houston, Gary, Indiana, and Flint), more often than not, the leader in the clubhouse of kills is Detroit.
And the only thing worse than the actual murder stats, is the fact that a fair amount of the people in this city wear the “Murder City” tag as some kind of perverse badge of honor. Like it’s a good thing that more people are murdered here than anywhere else. Why not just get a championship belt and have Pookie from 7 Mile wear it at the club.

The numbers have not been pretty over the last 35 years, when the city’s murder total topped out at an all-time high of 714 killings in 1974. The city has seen a somewhat steady decline in murders which can likely be attributed more to the city’s declining population rather than anything done by the current residents. The reason I am even bringing this up is that it has been discovered over the last few months that the city of Detroit has been intentionally undercounting the number of murders, either through clerical errors, laziness, or the police simply not reporting them. The original tragic number for 2008 was 306. However, after revising the numbers and doing some recounts, the number went from 306 to 375! And 2009 is looking to easily top those disgusting numbers. Currently, there have been at least 215 murders in Detroit this year alone, on pace for a robust 450. That 215 is the number that we know, not even factoring in the 20% or more that haven’t been officially reported.

Let’s put this in some better perspective. For years I have wondered how it is possible that Detroit could have more murders than bigger cities like New York and Los Angeles? Well, it has been proven to be true. Percentage wise, Detroit dwarfs the Big Apple in spite of the huge population spread. Currently, NYC is sitting on 200 kills this year. Unacceptable? Very. Detroiters will say that is just 15 fewer than us, so what’s the big deal? Simple. Detroit’s often disputed population is estimated to be around 915,000 (down from its peak of 1.7 Milli back in the 1950s). Meanwhile, NY’s population is estimated to be between 17 and 20 MILLION! Plus Detroit might have at best 3,000 police officers, NY: 35,000 cops. I hate to admit it, but all these years, they have been right! Damn.

But what can be done about this? No major city is gonna post a goose egg in the 187 column, but violence has become so interwoven into the collective psyche of Detroit and the metro area for decades, that we are basically numb to it. It is not only accepted, but it is glorified and revered. It’s in our music, our art, our history, our vernacular (“Murder Mitten”), our very culture and being as Detroit residents is to live up to this grossly low standard for accepting the title of being the “murder city”. Part of the crime reporting problems stem from this ridiculous “Stop Snitchin'” culture we live in, where people refuse to cooperate with police in the event of a violent or heinous crime because they don’t want to be labeled a “snitch”. Once again, here’s an equation that even DPS grads can understand:

Participating in a Crime, then Talking to Cops to try to avoid a longer bid = “Snitch”

Witnessing a Crime, then going to police in order to help the investigation = “Brave Citizen”

Witnessing a Crime, then refusing to talk to police in order to protect a “street code” = “Coward”

This is not a Dipset video. This ain’t some cheesy BET Black hood “gangster” movie. This ain’t State Property or Killa Season, dammit! This is real life, and as much as Detroit loves to keep it real, this is a case of when keeping it real has gone horridly wrong!

What’s worse is the mind-numbing and callous apathy that runs through our communities. In the wake of the shootings outside of the building formerly known as Cody High School (not to be confused with the shootings outside of Henry Ford High School or inside of Central High School), the Detroit News and TV stations quoted a number of local residents as not helping the police or even worrying about the shootings because no one in their families was injured. That’s a very selfish and sad commentary on the people of this city, because that kind of apathy isn’t exclusive to crime (see: Blight, Political Ineptitude/Corruption, Failing School System, etc.). I have said repeatedly that the reason so many people have left Detroit, and why I plan on doing the same, is because we were tired of loving a city that doesn’t love itself enough to stand up for itself. Right now the city of Detroit is Tina Turner, and Ike is making her eat the damn cake!

Don’t think I’m letting the police off the hook, by the way. My father, a police officer in Detroit for over 30 years, called the murder and crime numbers “bullshit” caused by the ineptitude of the city of Detroit and its mishandling of the police department. The city is horribly understaffed when it comes to police. The up to 25 missed or blown cases stem from “shift changes” and no one checking back to see if something came in. You’d have better luck getting Domino’s to show up on Schoolcraft and Artesian than you would DPD. Not because they don’t care, but because there aren’t nearly enough of them. Plus, one of the excuses used by these slackers who refuse to help police solve crimes is that Police spend time wrongfully locking up people and harassing citizens. There is some merit to that seeing as the department has been under federal monitoring since 2003, after a US Justice Department investigation documented violations of civil rights through police brutality, detention of homicide witnesses and unsafe holding cells where many prisoners died. The Police aren’t exactly taking care of business either.

The city has also been playing musical chairs with police chiefs who keep having a bad habit of being criminals, going back to William Hart. In the last year alone there have been three police chiefs: Ella Bully-Cummings, handpicked by former Mayor and current Felon Kwame Kilpatrick, resigned before Kilpatrick was sent to jail and was shown to have been apart of the illegal firing of the two officers that led to the whole text message fiasco. Cummings’ replacement was James Barren, who was a favorite of the officers and was starting the slow process of getting officers what they needed before being fired by new mayor Dave Bing last week. Barren’s replacement is former Wayne County Sheriff (and mayoral candidate) Warren Evans and he hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the DPD in the past. Evans insists that the proper counting of the murders will start under his watch.

The Rev. Nicholas Hood III, a former City Councilman and (you guessed it) Mayoral Candidate, said “For too long, we’ve pretended that things are better than they really are. The minute we have a true acknowledgement of the problem is the minute we can take appropriate measures to address the problem.” The problem isn’t the deliberate undercounting of crimes and murders, the problem is the crime and murders themselves! Until we as a city begin to take a true stand against these crimes and the city government itself starts to give the police department the resources it needs, all this talk about change is just gonna be more “bullshit”, or as my dad put it: “I worked under six police chiefs, and everyone of them sounds the same at first. And they do a good job for a couple of months, then right back to the same old thing. I hope I’m wrong this time…but I’m probably not.

Thank You For Your Time. Take Care, God Bless, Always Dare To Be Different, and G.O.M.A.B.!

Until Next Time…Stand Up Detroit…Stop Living In Fear. Σ

Published by

Jay Scott Smith

What’s Happening! The name’s Jason…but for the sake of this blog, you can call me Jay or Jay Scott. I am a 37-year-old Journalist, Detroit Native, Man of Sigma, and Charismatic Enigma…That About Covers it for me! lol You wanna get in contact w/me, well, here you go! G.O.M.A.B. to my Blu Family! (ΦΒΣ/ΖΦΒ)

5 thoughts on “Killa Season: Detroit’s Murder City Blues”

  1. Detroit, for as long as I can remember, has been a city of same shit, different day. Detroit loves to speak about change and making a difference but very little happens to propel it forward.
    Good honest citizens are almost too scared to speak up for fear of backlash from the cowards and snitches. Therefore, you’re left with a city in such a horrible state of disarray that you sometimes wonder if the sun still shines.
    This compounded by the ridiculous glorification of violence that leads to endless suffering and the loss of brilliant minds and it’s a wonder that anyone would even want to live in Detroit.
    Until Detroit, and what’s left of her caring citizens put their foot down and say enough is truly enough, be prepared for more of the same.


  2. Standing O! Great piece. Well-written and thought-provoking. I’ll have to pass this around. Every point you make is dead on… the reason I was in such a rush to leave the D… but also the reason I pray for it constantly and plan on coming back (eventually).

    Thanks Jason!


  3. This is why I feel super conflicted about my city. It’s like trying to save someone from drowning but as you go to reach out your hand, they still have this dire need to try to pull you out of the boat and into the water with them regardless of the fact that you’re trying *to save them*. I’ve asked friends who live in Texas and other places if they have this type of relationship with their cities. If they’re conflicted about staying or leaving and they always say no b/c they know if they leave their city will still be self-sustaining, even though it’s not all good, it’s still balanced in some way. But with Detroiters, I could be wrong, but I think we have a disproportionate amount of crime and our economy is in no way at it’s A or B-game (and perhaps not even at its C-game)…so we feel a heightened accountability for our city, but there’s a disproportionate amount of apathetic people…or maybe it’s not…maybe the fact is that we have more to lose. We can’t even afford to have a balance amount of apathetic people b/c we have so much on the line. We need as much energy as possible to keep our city in tact. We need for new homes to stop getting firebombed like it didn’t just get built for example. But there’s so much that is structurally wrong on top of personal responsibility of citizens…idk, it’s just overwhelming for me. I know I need to leave and gather up some resources and come back so I can make a difference b/c at this point trying to help, the city might be more powerful and drive me into some type of insanity–which is completely possible.


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