Flint homicides this year surpassing pace of record 2010
FLINT, Michigan — If Flint wants to lose its title as the most violent city in America, it’s not off to a good start.
As of Thursday, the city had 25 homicides — four more than it had at the same time last year.
Flint didn’t reach 25 homicides last year until June 11 and went on to a city record of 66 homicides.
The continued killing this year frustrates residents, especially those who are touched by violence.
“(The crime) has inundated the community so much that kids aren’t able to play in front of their house,” said Heather Kale, whose friend Kim Weidenhammer was stabbed to death in her home in February. “The violence has impacted us in a way that you don’t have a sense of community.”
FBI statistics released this week put Flint’s per-capita homicide rate at 59.5 victims per 100,000 people in 2010. Second-place New Orleans is about 49 per 100,000 residents. St. Louis, Baltimore and Detroit round out the top five.
Flint’s rate is nearly double that of Detroit’s, which is about 34 per 100,000.
FBI statistics also show Flint had the most violent crime rate — murder, forcible rape, aggravated assault and robbery — of any city of more than 100,000 in the nation.
Flint is No. 1 in murders, aggravated assaults, burglary and arson, according to the figures.
Flint’s continued homicide problem doesn’t surprise Dallas Drake of the Minneapolis-based Center for Homicide Research, which studied Flint’s 2010 homicides. The study maintained that homicides in Flint are an epidemic.
“Most of the nation has seen a dramatic reduction in crime,” said Drake. “I don’t think that the residents in Flint or the leadership realize the importance of what’s happening in Flint. (Flint’s murder rate) is going up, where everywhere else’s is going down.”
The father of one of the city’s latest homicide victims is searching for answers. Tyree Kerr, 21, was gunned down after an argument early Saturday at a house party on Swayze Street, near Corunna Road. Flint police have identified a 21-year-old man as a person of interest, but he remains at large.
“It was devastating to lose my son in a violent situation,” said Tyrone Williams, 55, of Flint. “I didn’t think nothing like that would happen to him.”
While the nation’s murder rate last year declined more than 4 percent compared with 2009, Flint’s increased by an alarming 80 percent.
The homicide rate has slowed somewhat this year since April.
During one particularly violent period in April, six homicides occurred in six days. Since then, the city has logged four homicides during the past seven weeks.
But with warmer weather approaching, recent history indicates the pace of the slayings could increase. Last year, 43 of Flint’s homicides occurred after June 1.
The 2010 homicide record came as the city laid off 46 police officers. The city avoided more cuts after Flint voters this month approved a 2-mill renewal for police services. Residents, however, rejected a 2-mill increase that some argued would have cut crime by reopening the city jail.
City officials are counting on programs, such as the new Ceasefire effort, and partnerships with community pastors help quell some of the violence.
Ceasefire, which aims to give selected career criminals the choice of changing their lives or going to jail, was introduced a year ago but has been slow to get off the ground.
Leaders here have been meeting for months and said in January that they identified 20 to 30 candidates for the program.
Police Chief Alvern Lock said there will be “tangible results” within the next month.
“When this is started we believe that the residents of the areas will begin to see crime drop in the areas targeted,” Lock said in an email. “I will not give too many details right now (as) those are in the final stages of being worked out. I believe this will impact what the residents of these areas will see as crime reduction.”
City Council President Jackie Poplar said she also believes the program will work. She said the city is being “held hostage” by 70 high-level criminals.
“Once you get the top players (of criminals), the rest of them are going to fall by the wayside because they are being led,” Poplar said. “You have a group of leaders that are leading people that don’t have anywhere to go. The crime leaders, they prey on the weak and the young. That’s why we have to stop the head part, and we can get to the rest of them.”
Lock said any program must have citizen involvement.
“With the help of residents, this can work. We must get citizens involved in this process for it to work,” he said. “I believe we will.”