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Police chief: Violent crimes see dramatic 76 percent decrease

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published April 8, 2015

 A police car drives past the Southfield Police Department, 26000 Evergreen Road. Last year, violent crime rates were down by 25 percent, according to Hawkins.

A police car drives past the Southfield Police Department, 26000 Evergreen Road. Last year, violent crime rates were down by 25 percent, according to Hawkins.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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SOUTHFIELD — According to Chief of Police Eric Hawkins, Southfield residents have reason to breathe a little easier thanks to a dramatic decrease in violent crimes over the last decade.


Hawkins said violent crimes have decreased by 76 percent between 2003 and 2013. Last year, violent crimes went down by 25 percent.


The FBI categorizes violent crimes as homicides, robberies, criminal sexual conduct and aggravated assault, according to Hawkins.


“What’s remarkable about that decrease is during that time nationally, violent crimes went down by 14 and 16 percent,” Hawkins said. “So, Southfield far outpaced the rate of decrease we’re seeing nationally.”


The giant fall in violent crimes, Hawkins said, can be attributed to the teamwork between the city government, the school system and residents.


“Recent studies are suggesting a major factor in reducing crimes in municipalities across the country is the quality of the public school system, and it just so happens we have an award-winning public school system, and over the last 10 years has been getting progressively better,” Hawkins said.


In recent years, Southfield High School, Southfield-Lathrup High School, Brace-Lederle School, Levey Middle School, McIntyre Elementary School, Stevenson Elementary School and Thompson Middle School have all been designated Exemplary Schools by the Michigan Department of Education.


Hawkins said the most violent crimes are committed by 18- to 26-year-olds, and studies have shown that individuals with a poor education are more likely to commit those crimes. A lack of education, Hawkins said, can lead these individuals to be hopeless and apathetic.


“In our city, individuals in that age range typically have jobs because of education — they typically have families — as the quality of education and our school system has increased, then we’ve seen the crime rate correspondingly decrease,” Hawkins said.


Southfield Public Schools could not be reached for comment by press time.


Hawkins said the hefty reduction in violent crimes is also due to a three-pronged approach from the city government. He said the current and former mayors, the City Council and the Public Safety Department have all been working together to ensure that Southfield is a safe place to live, work and play.


“(City officials) have always been committed to public safety in this city, ensuring the Police Department and Fire Department have all of the resources and staffing and support to carry out our missions,” Hawkins said.


Acting Mayor Donald Fracassi addressed the recent statistics with the Public Safety Department March 13 at the annual State of the City address.


“I would also like to add (that) residents and visitors can take comfort in the fact that the average response time to emergencies in Southfield is among the most responsive in the nation, typically under four minutes,” Fracassi said.


He reported that the Southfield Fire Department went on a record-high of 13,470 runs in 2014, and EMS transport service provided the city with additional revenue of over $2 million.


Hawkins also said that Southfield residents have played a large role in helping to make the city safer.


Community engagement programs like the Citizen’s Police Academy, the Youth Academy and the Police Chief’s Citizen Advisory Board help to get the community involved, Hawkins said, and in turn, violent crime rates plummet.


“I just want to congratulate our community for this unprecedented achievement in our city,” Hawkins said.  “This is not just a police achievement. This is truly just a community achievement.”

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