Crime in Oakland County: 2021 Stats and a Look Back
(Kurt Metzger, Jan. 10, 2024)
Oakland County, MI – Overall, Americans are extremely concerned about crime in the United States. As many as eight in 10 say it’s a major problem. They rank it ahead of health care and poverty, perennial priorities.
But when Americans are asked how things look in their own communities, they tend to express much less worry. Last November, Gallup recorded the largest difference ever: 78 percent of Americans said crime was rising year over year nationwide, but only 38 percent said it was up in their area.
How does this perception compare with reality? Here we look at recently released data about crime in 2021, and compare it with pre-pandemic trends.
Figure 1 tracks Part I Crimes, separated out by Violent Crime (Murder, Rape, Robbery and Aggravated Assault) and Property Crime (Burglary, Larceny and Motor Vehicle Theft), and Part II Crimes (Simple Assault – no injury, Fraud, Forgery, Counterfeiting, Embezzlement; Prostitution and solicitation, Drug crimes, and Drunk driving), from 2017 through 2021.
While my next article will detail crime trends across all communities in the county communities between 2019 and 2021 (using 2019 as pre- and 2021 as post-pandemic, recognizing that pandemic was still strong during first half of the year), I added 2017 and 2018 to today’s countywide analysis in order to provide a better trend analysis.
Between 2017 and 2019, the county averaged 2,133 violent crimes per year. That total rose to 2,428 in 2020 and 2,560 in 2021 – marking a 20 percent increase between 2019 and 2021. Property crime showed a somewhat different trend. After averaging 13,253 incidents per year between 2017 and 2019, property crimes fell by 19 percent in 2020. While rising slightly in 2021, the total was still 14 percent below 2019’s total. Nonviolent Part II crimes have shown a rather steady decrease between 2017 and 2020, rising just slightly in 2021. The 2021 total was still 10.5 percent below that of 2019.
Figure 2 takes the Part I Crimes and drills down into their components in order to better understand what crimes are driving the increase. We start with the components of Violent Crime. Murders in the county have ranged from 12 to 43, almost doubling between 2019 and 2021. The number of reported Rapes in 2021 was the lowest of the five years, dropping from 334 to 306 between 2019 and 2021. Robberies were virtually unchanged, with 256 in 2019 and 264 in 2021. The increase in Aggravated assaults (defined as “an unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury”) was the overwhelming driver to the increase in violent crime. 2021’s total of 1,947 incidents was 29 percent higher than 2019’s total.
Figure 3 addresses the components of Property Crime. The steady decrease in Burglaries and Larcenies drove the large decrease in property crime. Burglaries were down by 23 percent between 2019 and 2021, and a whopping 39 percent since 2017. Larcenies followed a similar trajectory, down by 19 percent between 2019 and 2021, and 34 percent since 2017. The last component, Motor Vehicle Theft, has experienced a steady increase since 2018’s large (and unexplainable) decrease from 2017. The 2021 total of 1,440 was the highest of the 2017-21 period.
The last two years have been a period of great upheaval, driven by the COVID pandemic. Our systems – healthcare, education, childcare, employment, business, etc. – have been faced with pressures and concerns never before experienced. All facets of life for families and individuals have been affected.
While many changes that occurred during the pandemic will continue in some form or other (telecommuting for example), some ‘return to normal’ will eventually settle in. Crime is the result of many factors beyond the pandemic. The pandemic brought many of these factors out in sharp relief. It will take a multi-sector approach to bring these numbers down.
Let me finish with one more set of data. The violent crime rate (incidents per 100,000 population) for Oakland County in 2021 was 201.6. The violent crime rate for the United States was 395.7. The violent crime rate for Michigan was 485.3.
For more stories about data, including voter turnout, dog names and breeds by city and more, visit the Data-Based Stories Archives on Oakland County Times. Thanks to Data Expert Kurt Metzger for this work!