The Politics of Policing: Crime Up In Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje has a track record of making it up as he goes along, particularly where the issue of crime in the city is concerned. Over the past several months, there have been multiple armed robberies of banks. In September of 2009, in response to a citizen email about a spate of breaks-ins around the Sunset Street area, John Hieftje emailed back that, “ As I explained to someone else who wrote earlier today, crime statistics continue on a long term downward trend in our city….”
That very day, as luck would have it, the Detroit News had published a piece based on FBI crime statistics that showed crime in Ann Arbor had, in fact, risen. A2Politico posted a piece titled, “FBI Contradict’s Hieftje Claim That Crime Is Down.”
AnnArbor.com picked up the A2Politico scoop and ran with it. I write in that entry:
Nationwide, according to the FBI crime index, Ann Arbor’s numbers show a sharp increase in property crime numbers. This bucks a national trend that has seen property crimes committed in the nation decrease by 2 percent per year between 2004 and 2008. In fact, according to FBI data, Ann Arbor’s property crime levels are behind only those of Detroit, Flint and Grand Rapids.
Evidently, scoring political points trumps telling the truth. Either that, or our Mayor simply couldn’t read the crime data that, one presumes, the Ann Arbor Police Department submitted to the FBI so the Bureau could do its analyses.
In October of 2010, John Hieftje was back at it. In an October 29, 2010 candidate event, Hieftje got huffy with Fifth Ward candidate Newcombe Clark when Clark hammered Hizzoner about crime in Ann Arbor. Clark told those in attendance:
“I love this town. I’ve spent my entire life here — the last 30 years, and I hope to spend the next 30 years,” Clark said in his opening remarks. “But I don’t remember choosing a community that it was OK to rob banks in. We’ve had four armed robberies in three months, two of which have been in this neighborhood. We’ve had an attempted rape of a college student by a Pioneer High School student in the parking lot of Slauson Middle School. We have half the cops that we had 10 years ago.”
Hieftje responded with, yes, a whopper. He told those present, including the government repeater from AnnArbor.com, that:
“I appointed Newcombe to the Downtown Development Authority, but I’m very disappointed that he’s taking incidences of crime — there was a robbery here or a robbery there — and using those as if they’re some sort of political lever. Ann Arbor has very low crime. Crime has been coming down steadily since 2002-2003. So to say that a certain incident … is indicative of something that’s happening in the city, I’m disappointed that that would happen. There’s certainly going to continue to be crime. Bank robberies happen. We’re in the greatest recession any of us have ever seen in our lifetime. These are happening across Southeast Michigan, but Ann Arbor is an island that has a declining crime rate.
Just 13 months earlier, the same AnnArbor.com reporter, Ryan Stanton, had written a story (picked up from A2Politico) about rising crime rates revealed by 2007-2008 FBI data. Yet, he allowed Hieftje’s whopper to go unchallenged and uncorrected. Crime in Ann Arbor rose in 2007-2008, so it could not have been “coming down steadily since 2002-2003” as Hiefje had angrily asserted in his rebuke of Newcombe Clark. Crime in Ann Arbor rose in 2009 and 2010, as well.
In fact, according to Michigan State Police Crime Statistics data as of August 27, 2010 crime in Ann Arbor rose in the categories of rape, robbery, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson. Total crimes per 100,000 rose 5 percent in the first six month of 2010. In several categories, Ann Arbor residents experienced a sharper rise in crime than did residents of of Detroit and Grand Rapids.
Yet, two months after the Michigan State Police statistics came out, John Hieftje once again claimed Ann Arbor is “an island that has a declining crime rate,” despite the fact that crime statistics compiled by the Michigan State Police contradicted his claim.
Thanks to the 2007-2008 “reorganization” of the Police Department, for which Hieftje takes credit on his campaign web site, the Neighborhood Watch program in Ann Arbor was cut to save money, two dozen experienced officers were allowed to take early retirement (see A2Politico’s March 26, 2011 entry, “Retired” Ann Arbor City Employees Earning $100K+ While Collecting Taxpayer Funded Healthcare/Pension Benefits“) and crime in our city has risen in multiple categories every year. Fewer police patrolling, and no Neighborhood Watch program may have saved the city money, but it has cost the thousands of Ann Arbor residents who’ve been victimized dearly.
Chances are very good, as they’ve done in past, City Administrator Roger Fraser, John Hieftje and Council will claim pretend “declining” crime rates justify more cuts to the city’s police force. The odds don’t look promising that Police Chief Barnett Jones will go along with the preposterous claim this time around (he played ball in July 2008, when his officers were given a sweetheart early retirement deal).
July-December 2010 Michigan State Police crime rates will be released sometime in April 2011.
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