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How A Michigan City Became The Most Dangerous Place In America

Flint MichiganThe words ‘No Trepassing’ are seen on the front of an abandoned house in a former thriving working-class neighbourhood near downtown Flint, Michigan July 8, 2009.

We’ve been ranking America’s most dangerous cities for several years, and there’s one city that keeps making the top of the list — Flint, Michigan.

Flint had 66 homicides in 2012, tying a record it hit two years ago.

Forbes has also ranked Flint as one of most dangerous places for women. The most striking attack of 2012 occurred when an 87-year-old woman was raped outside her home in broad daylight. She decided to leave Flint.

The city has probably changed a lot in that woman’s lifetime. Flint hasn’t always been this dangerous or depressing.

Flint had a booming auto industry in the mid-1900s. The United Automobile Workers, in its infancy, triumphed over industrial bigwig General Motors after a 1936 strike began an era of union labour. The people in Flint had stable work and earned decent money up until the ’70s.

GM’s Flint operations employed 80,000 people in 1978. At the time, New York City had a reputation for being the most dangerous place in America — not Flint.

However, the tide started to turn for Flint in the ’80s. That’s when GM started setting up factories in Mexico and dramatically reduced its operations in Flint.

By 2006 GM employed just 8,000 people in Flint, according to Flint’s city manager.

With no major industry in Flint, the city’s unemployment and poverty rates have soared as many people have fled the city. The desperation in Flint and lack of money for sufficient policing have almost certainly contributed to the violence there. Here are more specifics on why Flint is so dangerous:

  • Flint only employed 122 police officers in 2012, down from 265 five years earlier because of budget cuts, Mlive.com reported. With 122 officers, Flint employs one officer for about every 830 people. Comparatively, New York City (which didn’t even make the top 25 most dangerous cities) covers about 235 people per cop. 
  • According to the Bureau of labour Statistics, Flint’s unemployment rate rests as 16.0 per cent. Though not as low as Detroit’s, which rings in at 17.5 per cent, Flint’s lack of work doesn’t bode well for the local economy. More than 38% of people there live below the poverty level, according to the most recent Census numbers. Poverty and crime are known to go hand in hand.
  • Drugs are a known accelerant for crime, including violent crime. The number of young heroin users is on the rise in the Flint area. Heroin use has increased dramatically among people between 18 and 29, the Flint Journal reported in 2011. In just one month that year, two teenagers died of overdoses with three days of each other. 

As things get worse in Flint, its population continues to drop off. There were nearly 125,000 people living there in 2000. That number declined to roughly 101,000 by 2011. This decline suggests Flint is no longer a place where people want to live.

A news clip featured in Michael Moore’s “Roger and Me” back in 1989 sums up how Flint’s reputation has changed.

“Flint is best known for its principal industry,” a newscaster said back then, referring to the auto industry. “But it’s quickly gaining notoriety as a major crime centre.”

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