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Detroit Leaders Say Reducing Court Backlog Led To Fewest Homicides Since 1966

Detroit is on pace to record its lowest number of homicides since 1966, city, county and state officials said Monday, as they attributed the decline to a program they started two years ago to reduce Wayne County's backlogged court docket by clearing pending gun felonies. Through Nov. 30, there were 228 criminal homicides in Detroit since Jan. 1, 2023 — an 18% drop from the 278 killings during same period in 2022, according to numbers released during a press conference at Wayne County's downtown Detroit office. If that pace continues, Detroit officials said the city would end 2023 with the fewest homicides of any year since 1966, when there were 214 killings, the Detroit News reports. Officials claimed the decline was the result of a multiagency partnership that was formed in April 2021 to get rid of thousands of gun felony cases that were backed up in Wayne County Circuit Court and Detroit's 36th District court. Under the program, the pending gun felonies in Wayne County Circuit Court dropped 67% from 4,008 in October 2021 to 1,330 as of Nov. 26, while 36th District Court's backlog fell 80% from 2,098 to 415 during that period. Officials did not say how many of those defendants had cut plea deals. While it wasn't clear from the press conference how precisely reducing the backlog of gun cases helped to prompt the decline in homicides, two officials attributed the decline to better monitoring of tethered gun crime defendants out on bail with certain conditions.

The development comes as Chicago has reported a double digit decline in homicides there so far this year, according to the Chicago Tribune. Detectives have opened 569 murder investigations, which resulted in a 12% reduction from the same time last year, according to Chicago Police Department statistics. It also amounts to a homicide rate per 100,000 people of 20.7. Philadelphia reported in a Nov. 29 report that homicides are down 19% since the same period in 2022. But almost 40% of police departments nationwide no longer provide crime statistics annually to the Federal Bureau of Investigation after a change in reporting requirements, leaving a data dearth in New York City, Los Angeles, Houston and other large cities that criminologists say make it difficult to understand Detroit's developments in the national landscape. "We all sat down and figured out it's not just catching bad guys," Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said. "We can't overlook the fact that the dockets are crunched and not realize that has an impact on safety in the streets."


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