One of the most basic functions of government is to protect citizens and ensure public safety. But a series of budget reductions has eroded funding for public safety in Michigan, making that basic tenet of government more difficult.
Violent crime in Michigan has mirrored national trends and declined dramatically in recent years. But as with most other industries, public safety officers are being asked to do more with less, as cities receive have fewer dollars to pay for police and fire protection. That’s led some to fear that the state is stretched thin and could have trouble responding to an uptick in violent crime.
The facts on crime rates
Between 2007 and 2016, the number of violent crimes statewide fell 23 percent. Since the 1980s, the violent crime rate has fallen by nearly half statewide. There are exceptions. Even though rates have declined, cities such as Detroit, Flint and Saginaw consistently rank as among the most dangerous in the nation.
The number of house fires has declined by nearly half in both Michigan and the United States since the 1980s. Statewide, Michigan’s death rate from fires – 10.4 deaths per 100,000 residents – was a hair lower than the national average of 10.5 per 100,000, according to federal stats.
Related overage from our 2018 Michigan Issue Guide
- Michigan needs $4B more per year for infrastructure, but how to pay for it?
- In Michigan, more than 150 communities are financially distressed
- Limited Internet in rural Michigan depresses student, business opportunity
The facts on public safety spending
Michigan spends $1,513 per resident paying for public safety, according to data from the Urban Institute. That’s less than Midwestern states such as Ohio, Minnesota and Illinois, and 18 percent less than the national average of $1,843 per resident.
That’s largely the result of state cuts and declining property values that have reduced budgets of municipalities, which fund police and fire service.
That means there are fewer police officers and firefighters. Statewide, there were about 23,000 law enforcement employees in 2014. That’s 1 for every 426 residents over the age of 18 - well below the national average of 1 for every 298 residents.
The police who remain are stretched thin. In Michigan. They handled an average of 28 property violent crimes apiece in 2014, which topped the nation in the most recent year federal statistics are available.
How local communities are responding
Necessity is the mother of invention – and cities have gotten creative to address the decreased funding. In the past 15 years, dozens of cities have closed fire stations and rethought how they deliver services. Communities from Kent to Macomb counties have merged departments, regionalized emergency dispatch services, cross-trained officers and switched to “blended fire departments” staffed by both on-call and full-time firefighters.
And it’s not just local governments. In 2012, the Michigan State Police underwent a dramatic reorganization, reducing the number of posts statewide to 29 from 62 to save nearly $18 million.
Even though the economy is improving, no one expects funding to local municipalities to return to previous levels anytime soon. So creativity remains the name of the game for law enforcement agencies.
In Detroit, for instance, police have partnered with gas stations on Project Green Light, a program in which businesses pay for lighting and cameras that are monitored 24-7 by police. The program has been shown to dramatically decrease crime.
The downside of such programs? You guessed it. They cost money.
KEEP DIGGING: MORE INFORMATION ON MICHIGAN PUBLIC SAFETY
- Bridge Magazine: “Arson Finally on Decline in Detroit. Now for the Bad News.”
- Michigan State Police: “Annual Publications of Crime in Michigan”
- Citizens Research Council of Michigan: “Public Sector Employment Trends in Michigan and U.S.”
- Michigan House Fiscal Agency: “Budget Briefing: State Police.”
Explore the Facts & Issues Guide:
At A Glance
Education & Talent
- K-12 Student Performance: Michigan's K-12 performance dropping at alarming rate
- School Reform: Many Michigan K-12 reform ideas are jumbled, broad, or wildly expensive
- Early Childhood: Michigan preschool funding has improved, but child care still unaffordable
- Higher Ed: College funding cuts in Michigan have led to fewer students, greater debt
Economy & Prosperity
- Economy: Michigan business climate improves, but educated workforce is shrinking
- Jobs & Labor: Demand for Michigan workers is very high, but many have given up looking
- Incomes: Michigan income growth hindered by lack of college graduates
- Business: Business incentives cost Michigan millions, and it’s uncertain they work
Quality of Life
- Public Health: Michigan's adverse health trends track along racal, poverty lines
- Health Care: Health care in rural Michigan communities suffering, despite Obamacare
- Safety Net: $1B of Michigan’s welfare money goes to college students who aren’t poor
- Water Issues: Michigan's Great Lakes are good, but water concerns include lead and Line 5
- Lands & Energy: Michigan battling 22 invasive forest species, high electric bills
- Michigan Tourism: Does state make $8.33 for every $1 spent on Pure Michigan campaign?
- Infrastructure: Michigan needs $4B more per year for infrastructure, but how to pay for it?
- Cities: In Michigan, more than 150 communities are financially distressed
- Rural Michigan: Limited Internet in rural Michigan depresses student, business opportunity
- Public Safety: Michigan pays 18% less per citizen than nat'l average for public safety
Government & Reform
- Michigan Taxes: Michigan gives more tax breaks than it collects for schools, government
- State Spending: Big government? Michigan's state, local workforce 2nd smallest in nation
- Ballot Issues: 2018 Michigan ballot initiatives may decide marijuana, gerrymandering
- Gov't Reform: Despite low trust of gov't, Michigan legislators have done little to change