LeDuff: Our Future is Dying in Detroit. It's the Kids

September 29, 2021, 10:50 PM by  Charlie LeDuff

Brison Christian, 2, was killed in a freeway shooting in June. 

If Black lives matter as much to politicians around here as they'd like to say, then why is a child in Detroit 1,000 percent more likely to be struck by gunfire than the average American kid? Why is a child in Detroit under the age of 18 years old 300 percent more likely to die by the gun?

Here in Detroit, the future is literally dying before our eyes. And no one in a position of power has said a word about it.

The FBI national crime data for 2020 was released this week. It paints a portrait as bleak as it is outrageous: It was the most violent year in the United States in a generation. And Detroit ranks second only to Memphis, Tenn.

According to those FBI statistics, as well as data culled from the Detroit Police Department under the Freedom of Information Act and an analysis of the Gun Violence archive, one of every 40 children shot in America last year was a citizen of the Motor City (110 victims/pop. 640,000). For some perspective, that's double the rate per capita of megatropolises such Chicago (250 victims/pop. 2.7 million) and Philadelphia (130 victims/pop. 1.6 million).


So what's being done about it? Very little it turns out.

Mayor Mike Duggan, who is running for a third term, continues to bury his head. He refuses to debate his opponent Anthony Adams because he seems to know what we all know: If nobody brings up the issue of crime and quality of life the press corps certainly won't. How's that skyscraper coming along, sir?

James Craig Speech 9/14/2021 (Photo: Michael Lucido)

James E. Craig, the former chief of police under Duggan, is running for governor on his record of law-and-order. That record is suspect, and yet the press peppers him with questions about abortion rather than the health and well-being of the children living on the streets of Detroit. How was your meeting with Trump last night? 

And Gov. Gretchen Whitmer? She sits on a mountain of money – $10 billion sent by President Joe Biden, who has implored governors like Whitmer to spend the Covid windfall on public safety. But what does Whitmer do? She takes a knee and punts the issue. How's that electric highway coming along, madam?

Meanwhile, the city's children are shot in their cars seats. They're shot at little league games. They're shot riding their bicycles on a Sunday afternoon. The ruling class wants to blame Covid cabin fever and the George Floyd anti-police backlash for the explosion in gun violence.

But that's a cop out. Police data shows that the number of children shot in Detroit was skyrocketing before the pandemic. In the six months before the Covid lockdown began in Michigan, the shootings of children in Detroit had increased by a whopping 50 percent.

What's more, during the two months span from March 23 to May 25, when Gov. Whitmer ordered people to stay at home and the day George Floyd was murdered at the hands of police, the shootings of children in Detroit increased 375 percent from the same time period in 2019.

Lack of Police Presence

It was neither cabin fever nor anger with the police. At least, not in Detroit. It was the lack of police presence itself. When poice aren't around – remember the hundreds of officers who self-quarantined during the spring spike?  – people commit violence. It's called a lack of deterrence.

Defunding the police is not the answer. Funding the police is the answer. Good cops cost money. And as it stands, Detroit is struggling to keep its good cops because the ctiy does not pay them adequately.

We shouldn't be surprised. Detroit has been America's most violent city five times since its historic bankruptcy in 2013, and runner-up three times more.

Violence. That's why Detroit continues to empty out, Mr. Mayor. People love their children. There is no greater reason.

So let's say it again. Black lives matter and Black children's lives matter most.

That includes two-year-old Brison Christian, murdered by gunfire on the highway this summer in a case of mistaken identity.

Do more, Mr. Mayor.

And say his name.

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