Current Issues: Flint, Michigan
Flint, Michigan has been through many problems such as the great depression, the strike in 1936, divestment of General Motors, and now you cannot look at newspaper without reading about violence or murder happening within the city. But how did this city become one of the most dangerous cities in the United States? This is an extremely complicated question because cities are not a simple system. However by looking at organizations that have a professional definition of risk factors for crime and violence we can try and find some ways that fit the city of Flint. The CDC, Office of Mental Health, OMH, and National Center for Biotechnology Information, NCBI, list some factors of violence as low education or IQ levels, family history of violence, drug use, and high concentrations of poverty.
Map 1 shows which parts of Genesee County have the most and fewest households. Flint is the very center where the majority of the small shapes meet. It shows the majority of households are not located in or around the city of Flint with the exception of that southwest corner. Even though the map shows all of Genesee County it is important to focus on the areas around the city of Flint.
Map 2 shows the number of families that are in poverty status by social security income and cash public. Almost every shape around Flint is the darkest shade which indicates 224 -488 families are in poverty in those areas. When comparing both maps one and two together you can see most of the darkest shaded areas around Flint match up. The figures are not extremely specific so anywhere between seven and twenty four percent of the families in those regions live in poverty status. Even though the gap in those percentages is high it still leaves many families in the area under the poverty status.
Map 3 shows how many people over the age of 25 gained a high school diploma or the equivalent between 2009 and 2013. In this case the darker shaded regions means that more people have the equivalent of a high school diploma so the lighter shaded regions means the majority of people in those areas do not. Only one region is shaded in the darkest while the others surrounding the city of Flint are lighter.
A map about where drug use in Genesee County occurs is really hard to find but according to the Michigan Drug Control Update over 20,000 cases of marijuana, heroin, cocaine, or other opiates abuse were treated in 2010. In 2009 there were almost 700 meth lab seizure incidents in Michigan. Even though these numbers are for the entire state of Michigan, Genesee County is on the top ten list of high intensity drug trafficking areas in Michigan (Michigan, 2011). All of these numbers show that drug influence around Flint is an actual problem and can also contribute to violence within the city.
These three maps show the majority of the areas surrounding the City of Flint not only have a decent population density, but also have many people in poverty status with low education levels. The Michigan Drug Control Update also shows that the area is prone to drug and substance abuse. By comparing all three maps and taking into account the update, we can look at the risk factors and deduct that Flint is an area in high risk of violence. We know that violence and crime are a major problem for Flint from the many headlines covering it in the newspapers.
After General Motors pulled out of the city many people lost jobs and had to make do. The city however was built and grew because of General Motors, so when they left people didn’t have any other purpose for a while. Those that could afford to left and those that couldn’t stayed. Everyone that was left in the city and county either had some business or work they were trying to hold onto or couldn’t afford to move to find work somewhere else. General Motors leaving Flint is not the exact reason why Flint is in the shape that it is but it definitely didn’t help out all that much.
According to Jane Jacobs ordinary people make cities safe. There has to be enough people walking around so that there are constant eyes watching what other people are doing. Parts of cities that do not have heavy traffic do not for a reason. There are usually not enough things to draw people in and make them walk the sidewalks, so they become places where violence and crime can exist. This along with the fact that in 2012 Flint only had 122 police officers, also contributes to the violence and crime rates in Flint. As of 2012 the police officer to citizen ratio was one cop for every 830 people, if every police officer was on duty at the same time (Sterbenz, 2013).
So with the density, poverty status, education levels, and drug abuse it is easy to see how Flint is a city in risk of violence. This compared with Jane Jacobs’ theory and the amount of law enforcement in the area, Flint is the perfect case to look at and see how these factors affect violence and crime inside of a city.
Executive Office of the President of the United States. Michigan Drug Control Update. Washington D.C., 2011.
Office of the Surgeon General (US). “Chapter 4 — Risk Factors for Youth Violence.” Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General. January 1, 2001. Accessed April 10, 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44293/.
Sterbenz, Christina, and Erin Fuchs. “How Flint, Michigan Became The Most Dangerous City In America.” Business Insider. June 16, 2013
“Violence Prevention: Risk Factors.” Violence Prevention:; Risk Factors. November 8, 2012. Accessed April 10, 2015. https://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/sv/risk.htm.
“Youth Violence: Risk and Protective Factors.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. February 12, 2015. Accessed April 10, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/youthviolence/riskprotectivefactors.html.