Detroit on pace to end the year with 300 homicides


On Sunday more than 200 mourners gathered to commemorate the life of Anthony Tolson, a 33-year old Detroit musician who was killed Thursday night in a Christmas Eve carjacking at the Gratiot and Fairmont Liquor store parking lot on the east side.

Tolson had been the 291st murder in Detroit this year — a fact which was highlighted in a Monday Detroit News article on the gathering. 

"The city is on pace to end the year with 300 homicides, the same as last year, and the lowest since 1967. But police officials and residents agree: It’s still too many," wrote the News. 

While there are only four days left of 2015, the News' prediction of tragically hitting the 300 mark may in fact be more than a guess. A few hours after the Tolson memorial, it was reported that a seven-year old was shot and killed on Detroit's northwest side during a holiday gathering went awry. According to the News, a family had gathered for a Christmas celebration when a current and ex-girlfriend started fighting. One women left and came back shortly after; she allegedly fired shots into the house. Two of the kids, who were playing with Christmas presents at the time, were struck. The seven year-old died and her eight year old sister is in critical condition. 

"These kids were playing with their Christmas gifts and some (expletive) fires into their house?" Assistant Detroit Police Chief Steve Dolunt told the Detroit News. "I’m furious. Who would shoot into a house knowing there were kids in there? If they’re a parent themselves, what does that tell you?” He later astutely added: "This wasn’t drug related, or gang related. This was senseless.” Sharonda Benson, 23, turned herself into police at 3 a.m. Monday morning. 

The seven-year old became Detroit's 292nd murder victim. 

So let's return to the 300 number for a moment and consider what it all means. Yes, it may be the lowest the rate has been since 1967 — but, to quote the News, it's still too many. Let's look, for example, at this Washington Post analysis of Detroit's gun violence from 2014: 

"In Detroit last year, there were 1,054 non-fatal shootings and 300 homicides, though it's not clear how many of the homicides were gun-related. If all of the murders were involving firearms, that's 199 incidents for every 100,000 people in 2014. Even excluding the murders, the non-fatal shooting rate was 154.9 incidents for every 100,000 Detroit residents."

The Washington Post points out that the non-fatal shooting rate in Detroit is double that of Chicago — a city that is known for its gun violence. In fact, the Washington Post ends the piece stating, "Detroit appears to have had a worse year in 2014, but lacks the political significance — and attention — of Obama's Chicago."

Currently, we are on track to see similar stats to 2014 — in fact, had any questioned what the 2015 murder rate would have been at the beginning of the year, many would have predicted it would have surpassed 2014, considering Detroit homicides were up nearly 25 percent in first three months of 2015.