At a recent news conference, Mayor Dave Bing referenced a Detroit News story that revealed that 16 percent of the murders in Detroit occurred among people who didn’t live in the city.
He then self-righteous implied that media bias is responsible for the fabrication of unsubstantiated allegations of Detroit as an unsafe city. Bing specifically blamed the “print media” which he accused of “scaring” people about visiting the city.
“Contrary to popular belief, people think Detroit is one of the most dangerous cities in the country,” Bing said. “The perception is that you can’t walk down the street…but most of the homicides in the city last year occurred after arguments in residential areas by people who knew their victims.”
Was he joking?
Did I miss something?
It’s true that violence among family members and acquaintances account for a substantial number of homicides. Even so, there’s nothing in what the mayor said that should make residents feel better about being the primary victims of uncontrolled violence.
Actually, Detroiters ought to be up in arms at the suggestion that the homicide problem is caused by, or can be solved by the “media” burying the killings on the obituary page. Perceptions of violence aren’t informed by TV reports on crime that percolate out to the public, or from news headlines. In fact, there’s no disparity between actual homicides and how the public perceives them.
Detroiters and outsiders alike correctly view the streets and other public places as menacing. The proof is in the daily ritual of doctors in hospital emergency rooms treating gunshot victims, or the clergy consoling mourning families of murder victims who routinely congregate in funeral homes. Everyone caught up in this life-and- death crossfire understand that the sense of fear and loss of life is real – not perception.
Make no mistake, the slam against the media is intended to divert attention from an uncomfortable reality: the Bing administration really doesn’t know much about preventing or curtailing the slaughter. That makes the mayor’s attack tantamount to demagoguery, a skewed, self-serving attempt to mask government’s failure to rein-in pervasive, barbaric behavior.
His ignorance and blatant neglect notwithstanding, a higher standard of civility is required in a city where over 700,000 people live and thousands more commute daily. A city that can’t protect its citizens isn’t likely to do anything well.
The mayor and his police chief would best serve the public interest by channeling their energies into finding money to hire more cops. Even in these times of tight budgets, a greater investment must be made, and a higher priority given to adequate resources to make all streets in all neighborhoods safe. And that means going beyond deploying cops in the downtown area to accommodate visitors while leaving neighborhoods vulnerable and defenseless.
That also requires Bing to climb down from the ivory tower of the Manoogian Mansion and into step into neighborhoods beset with crime and predatory criminals. It means accepting that there’s a scary underbelly of city life beyond the mayor’s security detail and bulletproof limousine.
There’s almost unanimous consensus that the degree to which government officials abandon the rhetoric and adopt remedies will determine whether residents, visitors and potential investors come to view the city in a more favorable light. Put another way, if Mayor Bing wants Detroit to be seen as safe, he should do something more than concoct excuses for the inexcusable.
This shameless bashing of the “mean” media for reporting on the worst murder spree in decades may provide short-term psychological comfort for city officials. But not one safe haven will result from the circus atmosphere created by the mayor opening his mouth to babble about the “positive” side of the ruthless culture of violence. Best to say nothing.