Early May, Mayor of Detroit Mike Duggan announced during a visit to the University of Michigan that the school should look into the sources of murders in the city. Duggan, the former CEO of the Detroit Medical Center, believes if murders were studied in the same way that deaths in a hospital were studied, there would be a better understanding of motives, backgrounds and circumstances surrounding the deaths.
It is Duggan’s hope that once this information is accounted for, programs can be implemented to prevent some of these murders from occurring in the future.
This type of research follows a similiar pattern to University President Mark Schlissel’s term goals. Back in October 2016, Schlissel introduced the Poverty Solutions initiative, which attempts to understand the causes of poverty and its implications for society. Those researching under Poverty Solutions are working alongside community members and policymakers to find ways to improve the quality of life for those of low socioeconomic status.
Schlissel noted the importance of this initiative in preventing poverty within the state specifically. Considering many Michigan residents provide resources to the University, Schlissel emphasized in a Facebook Live conference in January the importance of the initiative’s efforts to help alleviate Michigan cities such as Detroit.
“I think, as a public university, our research should be focused on the challenges and opportunities that benefit the public that we serve,” Schlissel said. “My challenge as a university leader is to identify a match between what we’re good at, what we can bring to the table and what society needs.”
Due to the potentially complicated scenarios surrounding each homicide case, Rackham student Matthew Alemu — who studies both Public Policy and Sociology — believes it will be difficult to find a starting point in this research. All in all, he found the initiative promising for the University, as well as the Detroit community, he wrote in an email interview.
“I think that (Mayor Duggan) presents a fairly oversimplified correlation between assessing murder in the street and an ‘unexpected’ death in a hospital,” Alemu wrote. “However, I do think it presents an important opportunity to encourage increased collaboration between scholars and practitioners.”
According to an FBI study in 2015, Detroit was the second most dangerous city in America. Though safety has improved since 2015, the city still aims to make Detroit safer for its residents, and according to Duggan, research and data cllection on the homicides in the city may serve as another step toward this goal.