Chief Craig says pandemic drove violent crimes increase in Detroit in 2020

Detroit police chief James Craig held a news conference Wednesday to give the 2020 crimes report in the city. 

He says the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a rise in violence, but that the stay-home orders also helped curb other crimes. 

"It’s clear that the pandemic was the single most factor in driving violence in our cities, including here in Detroit," Craig said. "The rise in drug use during this pandemic fueled the level of violence." 

Craig reported a 19% increase in homicides in 2020, along with an alarming increase in non-deadly shootings. Those were up a staggering 53%. Craig said the majority of non-deadly shootings happened because of arguments. 

"While Detroit saw a 19% increase in homicides this year, we haven’t seen the increase some of the other major cities in our country have," he said. Craig showed homicides rising over 50% in Seattle, Boston and Chicago, and 30-40% in New York, Philadelphia and Houston.

Craig not only attributed the rise in violence to the pandemic but also to the unrest after the murder of George Floyd.

"Let’s not forget, Detroit was one of the few major cities where there was no looting, no burning. There was a reason for that." 

Craig also connected the surge in shootings to an uptick in gun sales, bail reform and violent offenders being released early due to the pandemic. Craig sharply cited one case in which a 21-year-old repeat offender was arrested for arson, a five-year felony.

"He was arraigned and, yes, he was released - on $350. There’s got to be responsible decision-making before people are returned to our community," he said. "Enough is enough."

But the pandemic and stay-at-home orders likely contributed to a major decrease in sexual assaults. Those were down 36% and other crimes like robberies, carjackings, burglaries were all down as well. 

Craig was optimistic that once this crisis calms down much of the violence will, too.

"I’m glad we closed the door on 2020 because 2021 has got to be better."