Surge of Gun Violence in 2021 Is Down in Detroit, Police Say — But Other Crimes Have Gone Up 

​While homicides and non-fatal shootings were lower than they were in 2020, larceny, aggravated assault and sexual assault increased. 

Detroit’s rise in violent crime during the pandemic tapered off in some ways by the end of last year, according to the Detroit Police Department. But while homicides and non-fatal shooting are lower than they were in 2020, larceny, aggravated assault and sexual assault are up.

DPD reported 309 homicides, 795 instances of rape, 1,529 robberies and 12,125 aggravated assaults, including 1,065 non-fatal shootings. All violent crime, including rising cases of aggravated assault, rose 3%.

Property crimes were up in general by 9% with 4,277 burglaries, 11,910 larcenies and 6,939 stolen vehicles, a 24% increase. There were also 216 carjackings.

“We are not in any way celebrating these numbers. Homicides and shootings are still too high.” –James White, Detroit Police Department

During the first half of 2021, the city experienced the most homicides and non-fatal shootings in nearly a decade. But according to DPD, the year ended with an overall reduction in both compared to 2020 when gun violence soared.

“We are not in any way celebrating these numbers,” says Police Chief James White. “Homicides and shootings are still too high.”

White, who took over the department last June, says there were 14 fewer homicides and 105 fewer non-fatal shootings in 2021 than the year prior.

“A non-fatal shooting is a failed homicide. So if half of those numbers, those shootings, had occurred, that homicide number would likely be significantly higher than it is today,” White says.

DPD together with other law enforcement agencies arrested more than 1,800 violent offenders and confiscated more than 8,000 firearms.

Gun violence was trending up before White came into office in June.

City of Detroit/Flickr
City of Detroit/Flickr

“I can ensure you that getting 7,000 guns off the street, there’s likely a large number of funerals that did not have to happen.”

White says police have made more gun arrests during the pandemic. He says DPD will improve foot beats and visibility to foster better community engagement in the new year.

White says the pandemic changed how sexual assault was reported.

“[20]20 was such an anomaly year,” White says. “There wasn’t the opportunity for our victims to report crime. We had schools closed. We had social gatherings that were limited. What we found when we looked at the 2019 numbers, they were consistent with the 2018 numbers and when we look at 2021, 2021 was actually less than 2019.”

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  • Eli Newman
    Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. His favorite Motown track is “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops.