Crimes drop in state as police ranks shrink

LANSING (AP) -- Michigan has seen a sharp drop in reported crime even as the number of police officers has declined around the state, according to an analysis of a decade of crime data.

Some experts cite the shrinking number of teens and young adults who are the leading lawbreakers, while others say it may indicate a decline in crime reporting, the spread of cellphones or even reductions in childhood lead poisoning.

The number of Michigan crimes reported to the FBI fell 21.9 percent between 2003 and 2011, the latest year available, according to the analysis by It said the number of state, county and local police officers in Michigan fell 9.5 percent from 2003 to 2012.

The FBI offered no explanation for the crime drop.

"We don't speak as to the what and the why," said bureau spokesman Simon Shaykhet. "We don't give any type of commentary as to why the numbers are going a certain way. It is a bureau thing. We're not opinion-based in what we do. We're just about the facts."

There probably are many factors contributing to Michigan's crime drop, said Bob Stevenson, executive director of the Michigan Association of Police Chiefs.

He said observers have given a range of possible explanations, including the elimination of lead from gasoline, a source of brain damage to children and a contributor to violence; the legalization of abortion and a reduction in unwanted children; young people living at home longer; better crime-mapping technology and more efficient deployment of police; and the spread of cellphones, which makes it easier for people to report crimes.

"I don't think there is one specific answer. It's a combination of a lot of those," said Stevenson, former police chief in the Detroit suburb of Livonia.

Another factor in the decline is the drop in the under-30 population of the state, from 4.2 million in the 2000 census to 3.9 million in 2010, said state demographer Kenneth Darga.

According to, there were 376,454 major crimes in Michigan reported to the FBI in 2003. Of those, 325,456 were property crimes and 50,998 were crimes of violence. In 2011, the crime total fell to 293,881 -- 250,325 property crimes and 43,556 violent crimes.

The number of police officers in the state stood at 19,649 in 2003 and 17,779 in 2012.

The drop in reported crime could mask a decline in the public's reporting of crimes to police, said Fred Timpner, executive director of the Michigan Association of Police, a labor union.

"I think that a lot of crime is going unreported. I think people are figuring, 'What good does it do you?'" Timpner said. "A pizza delivery guy is faster than a police officer in a lot of locations."



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Published: Wed, Aug 28, 2013