WSU study finds lower neighborhood crime where blight is torn down

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Busting blight is helping residents take pride in their neighborhoods and cutting crime.

"Rome wasn’t built in a day, it takes each and every one to work together as a team," said Aaron Slaughter.

You’ll find a lot of neighbors like Slaughter, who's excited about an empty lot across the street from his house on Longacre Street. A crime-ridden blighted house sat there for at least 13 years. It finally came down last fall - that means an improvement to his neighborhood. 

"People come in, we get the dope dealers, the rapists, we get the squatters, but when they come into a community and they see it’s well-kept and you have your neighbors working together they don’t want to come in," Slaughter said.

As President of the Longacre Block Club, in the Schoolcraft Improvement Association, he says he’s seen a dramatic difference. 

"Crime dropped anywhere between 65 and 70 percent," he said.

FOX 2: "So there’s a direct correlation between crime and blight?"

"Yes, because that’s a hidden spot for somebody," Slaughter said.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan spoke about a new study by Wayne State criminologists. They looked at more than 9,000 home demolitions over five years.  

"In the areas where we have done the most demolitions, crime has fallen significantly," he said. "And everybody in the neighborhood knows that and you can feel the difference in the neighborhood."  

The study's findings: for every three demolitions completed, they’ve saw an average reduction in crime of almost one percent.

"When you knock down the two burned out houses, and then somebody buys and fixes up the other two vacant houses, now you have more eyes on the street," Duggan said. "There is more pride and there is no doubt the demolition program has had a significant effect. It is just great to see an independent entity like Wayne State tell you how much, and it was pretty significant."  

Across town in the Warrendale neighborhood, life-long residents will attest to the numbers from the study. They’ve built an urban farm where abandoned homes used to sit. 

"We did have quite a bit of problems with the houses were all empty," said Barbara Matney. "It was a nightly occurrence for us to hear gunfire and stuff that always came from this direction. We picked up many shell casings because we want to make sure it was all clean." 

Across the street, a park will go in this spring where another abandoned home once stood.

"We opened it all up, we cleaned it up," Matney said. "And it seems like once we started this, people started sitting on their porches again. The kids started riding their bikes, people are out walking, they are waving and talking to one another again, this is just what it’s all about."