City celebrates being state’s ‘safest big city’

Conclusion based on latest FBI crime data

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published November 20, 2023


STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights city officials are counting the latest statistics from the FBI as evidence of success in keeping crime in check.

On Oct. 26, Sterling Heights city officials announced that the city has repeated its status as Michigan’s “safest big city” last year, based on data from the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System 2022 Crime Data Explorer.

Sterling Heights’ definition of “big city” is one with a population exceeding 100,000. Last year, the seven cities that had over 100,000 people were Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Warren, the city said.

Sterling Heights officials also provided comparisons between Sterling Heights and other big cities in southeastern Michigan.

When compared against Dearborn, Sterling Heights’ violent crimes are 17% fewer, while the property crimes are 18% fewer. And Sterling Heights said its violent and property crimes are respectively 41% and 22% lower compared to Ann Arbor, and 161% and 50% lower compared to Warren.

In more detail, Sterling Heights reportedly had 254 documented violent crimes in 2022, including two murders or non-negligent manslaughters, 20 rapes, 22 robberies and 210 aggravated assaults. Ann Arbor had one fewer homicide than Sterling Heights, and Dearborn had the same number. Dearborn also had the same reported number of rapes. In all other categories, Sterling Heights had the lowest number of violent crimes among the big cities.

In terms of property crimes, Sterling Heights reportedly had 2,616 recorded incidents, including 84 burglaries, 1,265 larcenies, 219 motor vehicle thefts and one arson. Among the big cities, Sterling Heights had the lowest number of recorded incidents in all categories except auto thefts, since Ann Arbor had 159.

In a statement, Sterling Heights police Chief Dale Dwojakowski said he is proud of the department’s officers, and he credited patrols and the community services bureau for their roles in safeguarding the city.

Collaborating with residents, he said, sends the message “that we don’t tolerate crime in our community. We’re all working together to create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.”

In an interview with the Sentry, Dwojakowski gave additional context behind the latest figures, particularly in terms of crime levels year over year.

“We are very pleased that violent crime has kind of stayed level for the last few years, which is a very promising sign,” he said. “And our property crimes have went up a little bit over the past couple of years, but that has been a nationwide trend.”

Dwojakowski said property and violent crimes were “flat and lower” in 2019 and 2020. But he said crime did see an uptick in 2021 and 2022, adding that “pretty much every municipality in Michigan” saw something similar. He attributed the increase to the easing of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and a return to socialization.

“Maybe people started working again, started driving again, getting out of that hibernation of the lockdown,” he said. “2022 was really the first full year that we were done with the COVID hangover.”

Mayor Michael Taylor said he hears from colleagues across the state who reach out and give kudos and congratulations over Sterling Heights’ low crime levels and reputation for safety.

“I give all the credit to the Police Department and our residents,” Taylor said. “It’s great to get that designation again. We’re proud of it, and we don’t want to give that up.”