Sterling 2020 crime rates lower than other big Michigan cities

Violent, property crimes up in city compared to ’19

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 11, 2021

 Serafina Pegoraro, 10, of Sterling Heights, gives a high five to Sterling Heights police Officer Jesse Wilson from a patrol motorcycle during the 2021 National Night Out event at the Sterling Heights Police Department. Recent FBI crime statistics put Sterling Heights’ violent and property crime rates below that of other high-population Michigan cities.

Serafina Pegoraro, 10, of Sterling Heights, gives a high five to Sterling Heights police Officer Jesse Wilson from a patrol motorcycle during the 2021 National Night Out event at the Sterling Heights Police Department. Recent FBI crime statistics put Sterling Heights’ violent and property crime rates below that of other high-population Michigan cities.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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STERLING HEIGHTS — The FBI’s recently released 2020 crime statistics reveal that Sterling Heights had fewer reported incidents of violent and property crimes than other Michigan cities with populations over 100,000 — even as the city’s crime rates rose compared to 2019.

According to the Sterling Heights Police Department, the city had 237 reported violent crimes and 1,205 reported property crimes overall. This put the city below Ann Arbor, Clinton Township, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Warren in each of those overall categories for overall incidents.

The city’s compiled statistics broke down violent crimes into subcategories of murder/nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crimes were broken down into burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.

In a statement, Mayor Michael Taylor had high words of praise for the police.

“The Sterling Heights Police Department has always had a first-class reputation for hard work and public service, and it’s amazing that we can see that reinforced by actual statistics, but it’s not just coming from the FBI Crime Stats,” he said.

According to the Michigan State Police breakdown of the FBI statistics — which only slightly differed in counts among Michigan’s most populous cities — among those big cities, Sterling Heights also had the fewest property and violent crimes overall on a crime rate per 100,000 people scale too.

To compare, violent and property crimes were 177.8 and 904.7 per 100,000 people, respectively. The closest cities were Ann Arbor, with 244.5 and 1,351, respectively, and Clinton Township, with 390.5 and 1,243, respectively, the MSP said.

However, statistics showed that Sterling Heights, like many other cities, states and the nation, had some increases in crime in 2020 when compared to the previous year.

The MSP said Sterling Heights’ reported violent crimes rose from 166 to 236, or a crime rate increase of about 42.8% per 100,000 people, compared to 2019. The biggest increase came from aggravated assaults, which the MSP said increased from 124 to 179 in the city.

Sterling Heights’ property crimes rose, not counting arson, 1,164 to 1,201, the MSP tabulated, adding that the rate increased about 3.7% per 100,000 people compared to the previous year. The biggest increase came from auto thefts, which the state listed jumping from 98 to 154 reported incidents.

To compare, among Michigan’s seven most populated cities overall, violent crime incidents rose 16.5% and property crime incidents fell 13.7% without counting arson, the MSP tabulated. Within Michigan, violent crime rose 11% per 100,000 people; property crimes fell 12.8% per 100,000 people, state police added.    

Nationwide, the violent crime rate increased by 5.2% per 100,000 people, and the property crime rate decreased by 8.1% per 100,000 people, according to the FBI.

Sterling Heights police Chief Dale Dwojakowski noted in an email that violent and property crimes were “exceptionally low” in the city in 2019.

“2020 saw crime rates return to a more average incident rate,” Dwojakowski said. “Despite that dip in 2019, Sterling Heights saw its Property Crimes and Violent Crimes at levels lower than 2016, 2017 and 2018.”

When asked about vehicle thefts rising in Sterling Heights between 2019 and 2020, the chief said the same problem occurred in “every big city” that year. He said large-engine muscle cars have been targeted and police have been in contact with Stellantis — which produces Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles — to reduce thefts of their products.

“Our department has an officer assigned to the Macomb Auto Theft Squad (MATS), which is a multi-jurisdictional unit that targets organized car theft rings,” Dwojakowski added. “MATS has made many high-profile arrests and has been working diligently to disrupt large organized criminal organizations.”  

Dwojakowski added that seven new SHPD officers will be hired to start in 2022, thanks to the last budget approval. He said the officers will be deployed to residential and commercial areas, and they will engage with the community.

“Sterling Heights continues to remain one of the safest communities because of the relationship and partnership that our residents have with our truly exceptional police officers,” he said.  

“Community involvement, great policing and elected leaders that fully support public safety is a big reason Sterling Heights, year after year, remains one of the safest big cities in the United States.”

Find out more about the Sterling Heights Police Department by visiting www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2800. Learn more about the FBI crime statistics by visiting www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/ucr.

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