The Detroit Police Officers Association held an “Enter At Your Own Risk” rally Saturday in front of Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, where they distributed flyers warning visitors to the Motor City of what they say is a troubling paradox: Detroit is America’s most violent city and its dwindling police force is overworked and underpaid.
Detroit, according to FBI statistics, is actually the second-most violent city in the U.S. with 21.4 violent crimes per 1,000 people in 2011. It’s nearby Flint, Mich., that holds the dubious title with 23.4 violent crimes per 1,000 people.
Regardless, Detroit faces major problems, with unemployment at nearly 20 percent and a poverty rate above 37 percent. More worrying still, the FBI reports that homicides increased by 11 percent in 2011. Over the same time period, Detroit cut its police budget by 18 percent.
The City of Detroit hopes to save another $350 million over the current fiscal year by compelling city police officers to take 10 percent pay cuts and work longer hours. The officers, in turn, have warned potential visitors: “Enter at your own risk.”
"We're not discouraging people from coming,” Union President Joe Duncan explained to Detroit’s local Fox station WJBK Saturday. “I love the city. I want them to realize we don't have enough man hours. I don't think the city is going to get the same officer eight hours a day as you do for 12 hours a day."
Duncan claims that Detroit has the only police department in the U.S. where officers work 12-hour shifts without appropriate staffing. He adds that the officers are the lowest paid of any big city and have made major concessions in pensions, wages and other benefits that have saved the city millions of dollars.
The rally Saturday also took aim at the state treasurer, who has threatened the Detroit police officers with another 10 percent wage cut for taking the issue to court.
"What you are seeing now is when businesses put profit before the welfare of the people," Duncan told The Detroit News. "What the city is doing is putting the safety of the residents and people visiting this city in jeopardy."
Metro Detroit receives about 15.9 million visitors annually, and tourism accounts for about 9 percent of the area’s 2 million jobs. The city’s violent reputation has kept visitor numbers at bay, despite gains elsewhere in Michigan.
Mark Johanson is the travel editor at the International Business Times. He has traveled to and written about more than 30 nations and territories on every continent except...