Drilling Down into Crime Statistics

Congratulations to Rochester Hills in their Munetrix ranking as the safest city among 15 cities in the metro area with populations over 50,000.   It is a very nice and safe community and the Sheriff does a great job.

But I think it is important to drill down into the data to understand why other cities, like Auburn Hills, might have different numbers and still be very safe.  And it is important to understand the nature of each community since it can be difficult to compare the crime rates because the nature of the communities is so different.

For example, the population of Auburn Hills is 21,011 which is why it wasn’t considered among the listing of 15.  Although we have a low residential population we have some high impact features to our community that influence police activity and therefore crime reports.  The Palace holds approximately 200 events per year that bring large number of people into  the city.  It can hold nearly 24,000 persons-doubling the population of the city on a sold out event.  (We sometimes joke that we have two sets of rush hours:  morning/evening, Palace ingress and egress.)  Include Great Lakes Crossings, Michigan’s largest outlet shopping mall with 185 stores, restaurants and entertainment places that brings in thousands of visitors every day of the week drawing from the entire Midwest and Canada.  Add in the large workplace population which we estimate at another 20,000-30,000 people each workday(I’m being conservative) and don’t forget 9 miles of I-75 that carries thousands of vehicles through the city every day (plus another couple of miles of a high capacity section of M-59).  The net result is that we have lots more people in and around the city on a daily basis, impacting police activity, than our population number shows.

Munetrix used reports from the Michigan Incident Crime Reporting Report.  It is a searchable data base by county, city and township.  It details 4 categories of crime:  crimes against persons, crimes against property, crimes against society and other types of crimes.  In the report the specific crime types included are detailed under each heading.

The categories of crimes against persons and crimes against property are what is traditionally reported.  In fact you see these in the dashboards of the cities on line.  In the Munetrix method all crime categories were lumped together.  Doing it this way has an interesting impact.  It gives equal weight to reported crimes and crimes that are largely impacted by police activity or what we call “Found on Patrol” activity.  The category “Crimes Against Society” includes crimes like violation of controlled substance laws (drug arrests) and drunk and drugged driving arrests among others.  Those are largely developed from police activity.  The AHPD arrested 248 drunk drivers last year — we consistently rank among the highest per officer arrest rates in the state because we give it a high priority – it makes our streets safer.  That number of arrests or “incidents” makes our crime statistics look worse however when they are all lumped together.  Same for drug arrests.  We made 228 drug cases last year again developed out of police activity.  We also made 254 arrests for “obstructing justice” which means that we place a high priority on arresting people on outstanding warrants – it is our job to bring persons charged with crimes before the court.  But those high numbers against our small population works against us when everything is equally weighted.

Using this method, we are a whopping 127.41 per 1000 population (2677 offenses vs 1818  for Rochester Hills)!  But I would argue that while it is a way to look at all of the crime, it doesn’t make sense to equally weight a combination of crime and police activity — i.e. if we don’t stop and arrest the drunk driver there isn’t a crime report.  So, if we arrest fewer drunk drivers, or people wanted on warrants we would have less reported crime.  As a professional police officer, I believe that if we didn’t prioritize these offenses, we would have more traffic crashes and more crime when offenders are not brought to account.

So let’s make a comparison of the 2 cities by breaking down the categories to see the impact:

Crimes Against Persons:  

Rochester Hills: 2.91 per 1000 pop. (207 offenses/69,995 pop x 1000)

Auburn Hills: 17.14 per 1000 pop. (360 offenses/21,011 pop x 1000)

Crimes against property:

Rochester Hills:   – 15.51 per 1000 pop. (1086/69,995 pop x 1000)

Auburn Hills:  53.71 per 1000 pop. (1128/21,011 pop x 1000)

Crimes Against Society (includes drunk driving and drug arrests)

Rochester Hills:  337  (337/69,995 x 1000) or 4.81 per 1000 pop

Auburn Hills:  805 (805/21,011 x 1000) or 38.31 per 1000 pop

Other Crime Types (like obstructing justice)

Rochester Hills:  188 (188/69,665 x 1000) or 2.68 per 1000 pop

Auburn Hills:  384 (384/21,011 x 1000) or 32.55 per 1000 pop

You see how this works.  I will leave it to your discretion to determine the safety of the respective communities based on the data.

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I'm the Chief of Police for the Auburn Hills Police Department.