SVSU analysis shows Saginaw has seen major gains in safety
Research and analysis by a pair of Saginaw Valley State University professors shows that the City of Saginaw has seen a startling reduction in major crimes in recent years, and that neighboring communities also are safer.
Working with the Saginaw County Crime Prevention Initiative, Andrew Miller, SVSU associate professor of geography, and Evelyn Ravuri, SVSU professor of geography, studied crime data for the City of Saginaw, and Bridgeport, Buena Vista and Saginaw townships. For research purposes, the east and west sides of Saginaw were examined separately, because of their demographic differences according to U.S. census data.
Over a five-year period, the number of part one crimes in the east side of Saginaw fell by 86 percent, and the west side of Saginaw saw crime reduced by 71 percent. Overall, major crimes in the city dropped by 80 percent.
In 2010, a total of 3,189 part one crimes were reported for Saginaw’s east side, compared to 431 in 2015. The west side saw the number of part one crimes fall from 2,347 in 2010 to 676 in 2015.
“Safety is a primary concern for the city and our residents,” said Tim Morales, city manager for the City of Saginaw. “Everyone should feel safe in their home, in their neighborhood, and throughout the city. The Saginaw Police Department, City Council and Administration, the community, and our partners in the county, state, and federal government are dedicated to making Saginaw a safer city.”
Morales added that Saginaw leaders embrace the work that remains to done.
“We are pleased with the results we've seen so far, and hope to continue these trends. A safe city is also vital to attracting new businesses and residential development, which is also essential as we seek to bring jobs to the city.”
While the drop in crime was most pronounced within city limits, Bridgeport Township saw major crimes drop by 42 percent (613 to 353) over the same five-year period. Crime in Buena Vista Township fell by nearly 19 percent (363 to 295), and Saginaw Township saw a crime reduction of nearly 15 percent (837 to 714).
The FBI categorizes part one crimes, which include the most serious offenses, such as homicides, assaults, burglaries and robberies.
Miller and Ravuri began studying crime data to evaluate the effectiveness of blight removal in Saginaw. Their research shows the 884 federally-funded housing demolitions that occurred from 2013 to 2015 are responsible for approximately 20 percent of the overall crime reduction. (See SVSU study shows blight removal a significant factor in Saginaw’s drop in crime)
“The demolitions were focused in certain areas for a reason: because the crime was there,” Ravuri said.
Numerous other factors also contributed to improved safety levels. An increase of Michigan State Police troopers in the city, starting in 2012, undoubtedly played a part.
The professors also believe increased involvement by neighborhood associations had an impact.
“It shows the fact that people don't want to live like this,” Miller said. “We're now statistically able to show this, even though before, we were just able to map it and notice a connection. Now, we're proving it. We're showing that this community is fighting back.”
The professors’ latest findings are the culmination of four years of studying crime in the city and the region. Miller and multiple students first determined where crime “hot spots” were, and he then brought on Ravuri, an expert in urban redistribution and population dynamics, among other topics.
“This entire project has really been about understanding what Saginaw is, who it is,” Miller said.
That improved understanding benefits law enforcement in the fight against crime. The SVSU researchers share data analysis with Saginaw County’s police chiefs, showing where crime is moving, among other things.
Saginaw Township Police Chief Don Pussehl leads the county chiefs association.
“It's very informational to me so that I can take a look at that area and determine what my patrol officers can do to be able to prevent further crime from occurring in that area and address the issues that are happening there,” he said. “It’s been very helpful for us to address those findings, keep an eye on things and prevent further spread of criminal activity.”
Editor’s note: The graph illustrates how major crimes fell by 80 percent in the City of Saginaw from 2010 to 2015; neighboring communities of Bridgeport, Buena Vista and Saginaw Townships also saw crime reductions during the same five-year period.