Harper Woods saw less serious crime in 2017

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published February 2, 2018

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HARPER WOODS — The crime statistics for 2017 are in for the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety, and city administrators are pleased that they show a significant drop in serious crimes.

James Burke, chief of the Department of Public Safety, credited the improvements to police work and a strong relationship with residents.

“For the 12th straight year in a row, serious crime is down in Harper Woods,” said Burke. “I’m extremely proud of our officers’ efforts, and I credit the relationship with the community we have. We made a concerted effort several years ago to foster a relationship with residents. Fifteen years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to have people see a crime and not contact the police, and now we have a lot of people reporting when they see something amiss.”

The report notably shows a drop in serious crimes, which constitute offenses such as larceny, robbery, rape, home invasion, violent assault and auto theft, as well as weapons offenses. Some of the numbers are the lowest that they have been in decades.

There was a small increase in overall crime, but Burke said this number is due primarily to drug arrests and misdemeanor offenses. 

“Overall, with serious crimes, we’re down 24 percent compared to 2016. Harper Woods is a very safe city, and we have a great community,” said Burke. “Robberies declined 33 percent, with only 28 occurring in 2017. The most significant drop is our auto theft numbers. It was down 37 percent compared to last year. I’m looking at records going back to the early 1980s, and the difference is staggering. In 1991 we had 191 reported auto thefts, and in 2017 we had only 74, which is the lowest since the 1960s.”

City officials seemed pleased with the direction the Department of Public Safety is going and expressed their satisfaction with the crime statistics.

“This is a testament that Chief Burke’s approach to community policing is paying off,” said Assistant City Manager Joe Rheker. “If everything were going sideways, he would get blamed, so when things are going right, I think he needs to get the credit, but we have great public safety personnel, and it’s been a great team effort in the city.”

City administrators said they are optimistic about 2018.

“We just hope they continue building on these successes,” remarked Rheker. “We always want to continue to build our community relationship, and we’re looking for another good National Night Out with them in the summer.”

Looking to this year, Burke said the department is hoping to see the trend of decreasing crime continue. The year will see more officers on the streets to aid in that goal, thanks to a recent Community Oriented Policing Services grant from the federal government.

“We received a COPS grant for $200,000, and we can keep more police officers and, hopefully, will bring in some new people and have them trained and on the streets soon,” said Burke. “We’re hoping to keep this steady decrease in crime going.”

Police and city officials said the key to lower crime in the city is residents playing a proactive role in keeping their community safe. Officials hope to expand what they said is an already strong relationship.

“With the neighborhood community center on Kelly Road, people can take a more active role in helping their community — including in crime prevention,” said Burke. “We want people to keep reporting crimes when they see them, which our residents have been very good in doing in the last several years. We’re always in support of neighborhood watch groups, and the key to success there is people in the community taking the lead. We have officers trained to assist them in organizing local groups, but we need people to stand up and start these groups in their neighborhoods.”