Forgive me if I missed the clown carts and the lemonade tanks and the confetti.
Because surely there must have been a parade somewhere in Detroit on Thursday after Police Chief Ralph Godbee announced he expects there to be "well under 300" homicides in the city this year.
That would have to be a 50-year low.
Believe that and I've got some low-mileage squad cars to sell you.
You can look at it statistically or you can look at it anecdotally, but neither I nor the citizens believe the chief's whopper. Not after an 84-year-old man was gunned down in church parking during bible study the evening before. Not after former Police Chief Stanley Knox was mugged while mowing his lawn. The city council, the police commissioners, the mayor himself have proclaimed the streets out of control and the police chief continues to feed NutraSweet to the diabetics.
The chief is torturing the numbers here. He factors out "justifiable homicides" -- whereby a person takes the life of another to protect his own. Nearly 10 percent of the country's total of justifiable homicides occur right here in the Motor City. And it is an important gauge of how lawless the city has become when a private citizen has to kill. Officially, there were 344 criminal homicides in Detroit last year and 35 justifiable. That's 379.
And if we are talking about criminal homicides only, then Thursday we were dead even with last year – 115, according to people in a position to know.
Not 90 minutes after the chief's announcement, a 16-year-old was mowed down. Hours after that, a man was killed at the side of a house. The police responded, but the next morning, it was a news crew that found a gun that could be the murder weapon. Sheesh.
Mark Twain famously said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."
Mr. Twain it is safe to assume hasn't familiarized himself with the latest Detroit public safety statistics. Cops not answering calls, fire officials fudging the arson numbers, the ambulance system guessing at its response time. All the while, the people are repeatedly told things are getting better.
"Crime's getting better?" an old woman said to me outside City Hall. "And I'm getting younger."
More now that ever, honesty in city government is paramount. The mayor has proposed an 18 percent cut to the police force and a 13 percent cut to the fire department all based on the voodoo statistics.
The chief says he needs to cut more than 100 cops by July 1 to make his budget. That's the bad news. But then he offered this cherry to cheer us up: he will ramp-up the police reserve unit. I for one wasn't convinced, as one of the geriatric reserves standing behind him was adjusting his dentures.
Media stunts and gimmick accounting ain't gonna cut it. It's time to get real. The busy season hasn't even started yet.
205 N. Michigan Avenue
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