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Ann Arbor Mayor and Council Member Live in Highest Crime Neighborhoods

by P.D. Lesko

It pays, literally, to live in at least one of the high rent neighborhoods in Ann Arbor. Specifically, outgoing Ward 2 Council member Tony Derezinski’s neighborhood. Between January and September 2012, within a 1 mile radium of Derezinski’s home, there were just 27 crimes reported, the majority of them forced entry burglaries. After burglaries, cars were the most common targets for thieves in Derezinski’s ‘hood—vehicle thefts and, more commonly, vehicle break-ins plagued the Council member’s tony Ward 2 neighborhood. There were no drug-related crimes, sex crimes, arsons, DUIs, or homicides reported to the Ann Arbor Police Department within 1 mile of Derezinski’s home. There were three assaults, but all of them were related to domestic violence complaints.

A2Politico.com used CrimeMapping.com to take a look at the rate of crimes committed (and reported), the type of crimes and frequency of crime within a 1 mile radius of the homes of all of the city’s elected officials, including John Hieftje and all of the 10 City Council members. According to the company’s web site, “CrimeMapping.com has been developed by The Omega Group to help law enforcement agencies throughout North America provide the public with valuable information about recent crime activity in their neighborhood. Our goal is to assist police departments in reducing crime through a better-informed citizenry. Creating more self-reliance among community members is a great benefit to community oriented policing efforts everywhere and has been proven effective in combating crime. CrimeMapping.com utilizes ESRI’s advanced mapping engine, which helps us provide a high level of functionality as well as flexibility to the agencies we serve. Crime data is extracted on a regular basis from each department’s records system so that the information being viewed through a Web browser is the most current available. This data is always verified for accuracy and all address information is generalized by block in order to help ensure privacy is protected.”

Type in an address, select a radius ranging from 500 feet to 2 miles, and the site provides data so that users can see the number, location and type of crime reported during the dates specified.

Like Derezinski, within a 1 mile radius of Ward 2 Council member Jane Lumm’s home, there were a comparatively small number of crimes reported between January and September 2012, 44 in total, or about five reports filed per month. There were seven forced-entry burglaries, 10 assaults, 10 vehicles break-ins, and one drug-related crime (possession of marijuana).

In other high-priced neighborhoods, such as on Baldwin Avenue near Burns Park, where John Hieftje lives, crime is much more frequent and violent. Between January and September 2012, there were 294 crimes reported by residents who lives within a 1 mile radius of Hieftje’s home. There were 12 drug-related crimes, all of which were possession of marijuana. There were 67 burglaries, the majority of which saw thieves forcing their way into homes, as opposed to residents leaving open doors and/or windows, and 52 assaults. While in Lumm’s neighborhood, the majority of assaults were classified as intimidation, within a 1 mile radius of Hieftje’s home, the assaults were more serious, including aggravated/felony assaults, not related to domestic violence, as was the case in Derezinski’s neighborhood. There were four sex crimes, all involving forcible contact and loads (50 reports filed) of larceny/theft. In Lumm’s neighborhood, there was one instance of vandalism involving private property reported in nine months. In Hieftje’s Burns Park neighborhood, there were 61 instances of vandalism reported during the same time frame, or one instance of vandalism every four days, or so. There were no homicides or instance of disturbing the peace. There were, however, two fires classified and reported as arson.

Ward 4 Council member Margie Teall lives in Burns Park, as well, just off of Packard, in what University of Michigan faculty refer to as the “untenured” side of the neighborhood. In Lower Burns Park, the houses are smaller, closer together, less pricey than homes on the “tenured” side of Packard, near Burns Park Elementary School. In this part of Burns Park, within a 1 mile radius of Teall’s home, there were 228 crimes reported in the 9 month period in question including 30 assaults, 41 thefts, 54 acts of vandalism, 56 burglaries, .

Ward 5 Council member Mike Anglin lives on the Old West Side, just off of Main Street, a few blocks from Downtown Home and Garden. Between January and September 2012 within a 1 mile radius of Anglin’s home there were 392 crimes reported, or more than 14 times the number of crimes reported in Tony Derezinski’s Ward 2 neighborhood. In Derezinski’s neighborhood, there was a crime reported to the Ann Arbor Police once every 10 days between January and September 2012; in Anglin’s neighborhood during the same period, there were 1-2 crimes reported daily. While there were fewer burglaries (63) reported in Anglin’s neighborhood than in Hieftje’s neighborhood (67), assault is a more prevalent, even while the types of assaults are not a serious as those committed in Hieftje’s Burns Park area. In Anglin’s neck of the woods, the majority of the 101 assaults reported over the 9 month period were simple assaults, including domestic violence. There were just three more drug-related crimes reported in Anglin’s neighborhood (15) as in Hieftje’s (12). However, while Hieftje’s Burns Park neighbors got nabbed for smoking and possessing pot, in Anglin’s neighborhood the police nabbed suspects in possession of crack, synthetic narcotics and dangerous drugs in addition to marijuana use and possession. Finally, in Anglin’s Old West Side neighborhood, there were 10 sex crimes reported.

So how does the AAPD use crime data to determine where patrols are most frequent? Chief John Seto, when asked, stressed that policing is primarily reactive, in other words, in response to calls reporting crimes, or requesting help.

“We divide the city into four sectors,” explained Seto.

These sectors correspond, roughly to north, south, east and west. It doesn’t mean that a patrol car cruising one sector won’t respond to a call for assistance in another sector. In fact, in cars with a single officer, in certain circumstances, it’s necessary for the officer to wait for back-up. As A2Politico revealed in 2010, “On any given morning, there are between 6-10 police officers responding to calls from the people who live in Ann Arbor. On the afternoon shift, there are between 6-10 police officers on patrol. On the midnight shift, when most serious crime happens, in Ann Arbor there are 10-12 police officers on patrol.”

While John Hieftje’s mantra is “crime is down,” sources in the AAPD have repeatedly alleged that thousands of crime reports have not been filed and that of those reports that have been filed, crimes are being misclassified to appear. Sources within the AAPD revealed:

“There are not enough officers to file reports the same way that officers who worked in the AAPD five years ago filed reports,” another source within the AAPD, who spoke to A2Politico on condition of anonymity explained. “The next call is waiting.”

There are other ways that the multiple sources within the department allege Ann Arbor’s crime statistics are being manipulated so that it appears crime has dropped even as the number of officers has been steadily reduced.

“Say a call comes in to 911. The Ann Arbor dispatch takes the call, writes it up—classifies it—and dispatches officers. When county dispatchers get involved they routinely down-classify the crimes reported in the calls. A & B (assault and battery) becomes disorderly conduct. Open calls get closed out then reclassified.”

Those are serious allegations but not outlandish.

In 2004 Atlanta’s new Police Chief, Richard Pennington, released an independent audit of his department’s police practices that shocked the nation. He criticized his department for underreporting crime. The Los Angeles Times reports, “The independent report covers the years prior to Atlanta’s 1996 Summer Olympics through Pennington’s tenure as chief, which began in 2002. It described ‘a broken police department’ that, during a period when officials here were concerned about the city’s image as a tourist destination, discarded crime records and improperly closed cases.”

In January of this year, The New York Times reported that David N. Kelley, Chief of Police for the city of New York, announced that “three former federal prosecutors would review the department’s internal crime-reporting system.” The article goes on to report that, “Critics have long suggested that the crime data has been undermined by departmental incentives or threats that in many cases prompt those responsible for assessing, reporting and recording crimes — from patrol officers to precinct commanders — to downgrade offenses….”

Ann Arbor’s internal crime-reporting system has never been reviewed or audited by an independent agency or group.

“It needs to be audited,” says a source within the AAPD. “It’s the only way the public will ever get the truth about crime in our city.”

In the meantime, CrimeMapping.com remains a resource for those interested in learning more about reported crimes (the rate of solved crimes and/or closed reports is another kettle of stinking fish, according to AAPD officers in the know).

The bright spot in all of this is that Ann Arbor’s new Police Chief, John Seto, is a big believer in pro-active policing; in other words, he believes a robust police presence deters crime. With new members of City Council preparing to take office—candidates who told voters that they favor rebuilding our decimated safety services—John Seto will, perhaps, find allies willing to move the AAPD back in the direction of pro-active policing. As for an audit of the city’s crime reports and crime-reporting system, one Council member chuckled at the suggestion.

“If we pushed for an audit like that John (Hieftje) would have a stroke.” The Council member grinned broadly. “It’s a great idea.” 

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