Detroit politicians say violent crime is down, numbers reflect opposite

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Charlie LeDuff speaks to one anonymous Detroit police officer who said "It's a bad time to be a cop."

In Detroit, like most major Americans cities, homicides and shootings are climbing. In those same cities, however, officials assure their residents that is not true and that violent crime, as a whole, is down. 

Urban centers across the country are on a low boil. People are afraid of the police and police are afraid too. And people are dying. 

The Motor City is no different. Detroit Police Chief James Craig assures us that violence is way down but the truest measure of crime for most anybody is body count. So what's the body count?

"As of today, okay we have 144, compared to last year 128 (at this time last year)," Craig said.

That increase is about 15%, which is the same amount as Chicago, the same city that's catching hell.

What about the men and women on the street? One Detroit cop was candid, as long as we kept him confidential.

"Reading the reports I read and seeing what I see," he said. "I can't sit here in good conscience and tell you yeah, crime is down. We just don't have the officers anymore."

The people don't believe it either. Detroit's a rough city, the most violent according to the FBI, but even by that low standard, this is a very bad stretch.

In one weekend, at multiple block parties and a downtown casino, 30 people were shot, three of which were killed. 

The next weekend 30 people shot, again, 10 more dead.

No, Baltimore and Chicago are not alone. Crime is so bad in Detroit that the city's police chief famously encouraged citizens to arm themselves. But when those citizens shoot and kill to protect themselves, those homicides are erased from the homicide total Why? Those deaths are considered justifiable. 

That makes things look better. No other city admits to doing that.

Other cities on the financial ropes be warned: Detroit went bankrupt, so they cut police benefits and pay. Somehow that was supposed to attract more police officers. 

Instead, cops are leaving Detroit in droves. Those still working are burned out. And they can't find enough new guys to join the force. Maybe the starting salary has something to do with it?

"Right now our officers are starting off at a little over $14 an hour. $14 and change," Mark Diaz, the President of the Detroit Police Officers Association said.

Just $14 and change to put your life on the line.

"I don't want to go to another funeral," said the anonymous officer. "I've seen too many friends get buried on this job ... for $14 an hour now? It's not worth it."

In May, Charlie became the news. He was at a Detroit restaurant when a mugger snagged someone's phone. The victim called for help and Charlie took him down. Then he waited for 15 minutes for cops to arrive to a crime in progress.

"I don't know why it took 15 minutes," Craig said. "I don't know if they were tied up on other calls. I have no idea."

Authorities can talk all they want about response times and property crimes. But the fact of the matter is killings are on the rise in America no matter how they stretch the numbers.