Sewage Overflows Continue in Southeastern Michigan as Storm Severity Increases

Summer storms have brought on many issues this year, including flooding and long periods without power. Another affect of the heavy rain though is increased sewage overflow into our local rivers and lakes, which also means increased risk of contaminated waters. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy tracks discharges by three different categories: combined sewer overflow (CSO), sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) and retention treatment basin overflow (RTB). Each of these are  discharges from a sewer system which contains untreated or partially-treated sewage. CSOs are discharges from older sewer systems designed to carry both domestic sewage and storm water, collectively referred to as combined sewage. Retention treatment basins often collect and treat this wastewater from CSOs to help avoid untreated overflows into the environment. However, they too can overflow, leading to an RTB overflow. SSOs are discharges of raw or inadequately treated sewage from municipal separate sanitary sewer systems, which are designed to carry sanitary sewage but not storm water.

Below is data on the type of overflows that have occurred in Southeastern Michigan in 2021 thus far. EGLE tracks this information and presents an annual report; the data for this post is the ongoing data for 2021 and has yet to be digested into a comprehensive report. Overall, the data shows that were have been 84 known and reported discharge events in Michigan in 2021. Of those 84, 37 have occurred in Southeastern Michigan. The charts below provide a deeper look at the type of discharge events, their locations and the responsible parties of the discharge events. 

The above data highlights a few different points, including that the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) had the highest number of discharge events in 2021 thus far; CSO discharge events are the most common; the Detroit River and the Rouge River are recipients of the highest number of discharge events; and August has had the most number of discharge events this far in 2021.

Now, to further break down the data. It should come as no surprise that the GLWA has had the most number of sewage discharge events because of its size. The GLWA is a regional water authority that provides drinking water and sewer service to more than 80 communities in Southeastern Michigan. The GLWA, by way of its formation in 2015, also inherited old infrastructure, which clearly needs updating to help prevent future overflows. For example, the Conner Creek discharge event that occurred during the first major rain storm of the summer, in early July, was a result of a lack redundancies for power. This event was one of the RTB overflow events, as the Conner Creek Pump Station is a CSO basin station, meaning the facility is meant to handle sewage overflow so it doesn’t go into the waterways. However, it does happen, and so far in 2021 there have been 9 such events.

As noted, CSO events occur when the system becomes  overwhelmed by the combined sewage and untreated wastes are directly released into receiving waters, with the Detroit River and the Rouge River being the most common water in Southeastern Michigan. These CSO events are considered intentional because the system was designed to allow overflow into waterways  once capacity of the wastewater treatment plant to store more liquid or process its maximum volume is reached. There are several discharge points in Southeastern Michigan, with the GLWA operating most of them. In total, the GLWA has 9 CSO discharge locations along the Detroit and Rouge Rivers and 62 additional untreated discharge points. Of those 62 untreated discharge points, six  discharge only in the event of an emergency that jeopardizes property (i.e. wide-spread basement flooding). The remainder of the points discharge at varying frequencies. These 62 sites are responsible for about 5 percent of total combined sewer overflow discharge volume. In 2021 there have been 20 CSO events in Southeastern Michigan, 19 of which the GLWA was responsible for and all of which discharged in the Detroit or Rouge rivers.

CSO events are tied to heavy rainfall, which explains why August had the highest number of overflow events. It is predicted that these events will only increase as our climate changes.  This of course is concerning because the overflows are forms of pollutants and release hazardous materials into the environment, causing health, safety and environmental issues.

Ways to help mitigate CSOs include sewer separation, expanding CSO treatment facilities and adding retention basins and investing in green infrastructure (bioswales, rain gardens). Actions are being taken nationally and locally to help better prevent CSOs, but a total overhaul of our water and sewer infrastructure would cost billions upon billions of dollars. So far, the GLWA has invested $1.2 billion in CSO facility upgrades, and while the amount of CSOs has been reduced by 95 percent, they still occur and have long-term affects on the region.

Detroit’s Population Falls in 2020 Census, Oakland and Macomb Counties Continue to Grow

The numbers are in, and according to 2020 Decennial Census data Michigan’s overall population grew to 10,077,331, but Detroit suffered a population loss for yet another decade. According to the recently released data, Detroit’s 2020 population was recorded at 639,111, a decrease from  the 713,777 2010 Census population. The City of Detroit’s population was at one point larger than every other county’s population in the State of Michigan (1.8 million people in 1950), except for Wayne County (it is located in Wayne County. However, as the first chart below shows, that began to change in 1990 when Oakland County’s population exceeded Detroit’s. Then, in 2010, Macomb County’s population also exceeded Detroit’s population. According to the most recent Census data, Oakland County’s population was  1,274,396 and Macomb County’s population was 881,217 in 2020. Wayne County, including the City of Detroit, still has the largest population in Michigan at 1,793,561. However, Wayne County also continues to lose population, in part because of Detroit’s population loss.

Between 2010 and 2020, the City of Detroit and St. Clair and Wayne counties were the only large units of government to lose members of their population. The City of Detroit had the largest percent loss at 10.5 percent, or 74,666 people. Wayne County experienced a 1.5 percent loss (27,023) and St. Clair County experienced a 1.6 percent loss (2,657). Tax foreclosures have been cited as a reason for the Detroit’s continued population loss.  Note, however, that Detroit lost fewer people in the last decade than the previous decade–74,666 from 2010 to 2020, compared to the 201,530 population loss between 2000 and 2010.  Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he plans to appeal the recently released Census numbers for the City, as he firmly believes they are inaccurate. Part of his reasoning? The 2020 Census accounted for 254,000 occupied households but according to DTE there are about 280,000 residential households paying electric bills. In comparing these two data points, there is a discrepancy of 25,000 occupied houses with running electricity—housing units he thinks the Census missed. 

Wayne County officials on the other hand recognize that population loss continued, but chose to see progress since the total loss between 2010 and 2020 was about 27,000 people whereas, between 2000 and 2010, the population loss was about 240,000 residents, so there has been a substantial decline in the loss. According to a recent Free Press article, part of population loss Wayne County experienced was due to the loss Detroit experienced, but that was offset by population gains in other municipalities in Wayne County. Furthermore, a large portion of the State’s population remains concentrated in Wayne County (about 1/5 of the population). 

The population loss experienced by Detroit and Wayne and St. Clair counties was likely the gain for other area counties. According to the data, Washtenaw County experienced an 8 percent population increase between 2010 and 2020 (27,467), Livingston County experienced a 7.1 percent increase (12,899), Oakland County experienced a 6 percent population increase (72,034) and Macomb County experienced a 4.8 percent increase (38,865).

In a future post we will also be looking at the population gains and losses at the municipal level in Southeastern Michigan. A few notable regional gains and losses to mention now though are:

Population Gains Above 20 Percent

•Hamtramck, where the population increased 27 percent between 2010 and 2020 (from 22,423 to 28,433)

•Salem Township, where the population increased 25 percent ( from 5,627 to 7,018);

•Oceala Township, where the population increased 23 percent (from 11,936 to 14,623);

•Lima Township, where the population increased 22 percent (from 3,307 to 4,024)

•Dundee Township, where the population increased 21 percent (from 6,759 to 8,145);

•Saline Township, where the population increased 20 percent (from 1,896 to 2,277);

•Novi Township, where the population increased 20 percent (from 55,224 to 66,243);

Population Losses Above 10 Percent

•Scio Township, where the population decreased by 13 percent between 2010 and 2020 (from 20,0081 to 17,552); •Detroit, where the population decreased by 10.5 percent (from 713,777 to 639,111).

With population changes comes changes in demographics as well. For example, in Detroit, the Hispanic white population grew to make up 9.5 percent of the City’s demographic and the Hispanic or Latino population to grew to makeup 8 percent of the population.

To fully grasp the regional and statewide population gains and losses we needed to understand just who left one area and moved to another. Migration to the suburbs, particularly to Macomb and Oakland counties by the City’s white population, is what initially triggered Detroit’s population loss in the 1950s. This population loss has continued through 2020. Demographic changes have continued through today and with the release of new Census data, Drawing Detroit will show just how Southeastern Michigan, and Michigan overall, has changed in the last decade and beyond.

Southeastern Michigan COVID Update: August 2021

The era of COVID continues, especially as we again are witnessing a case surge due to the Delta-variant. In Michigan, the level of transmission is now considered substantial, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC states there are now 71 counties that are places of “substantial” or “high” transmission: Livingston, Monroe, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne are included in this list. A county is considered to have a substantial transmission rate if there are 50-99 cases per week per 100,000 people and/or a test positivity between 8  and 9.9 percent; all counties in Southeastern Michigan are considered substantial by the CDC, except St. Clair County. A county is considered to have a high transmission rate if there are 100 new cases per week per 100,000 residents, and/or there is a positive test rate of 10 percent or higher. Those Michigan counties that have a high transmission rate are Alpena, Branch, Charlevoix, Huron, Iosco, Kalkaska and Montmorency counties, according to the CDC.

Michigan reported 910,500 total confirmed COVID cases as of Aug. 6, 2021. Of that total 3,962 are confirmed new COVID cases from August 3,4 and 5, 2021 (the State no longer reports case numbers daily).

In Chart 1 we drill down into the number of confirmed COVID cases for Southeastern Michigan, by county and for the City of Detroit; all numbers are represented of a five-day rolling average. The five-day rolling average for the total number of COVID cases (Chart 1) reflects a smoother curve and adjusts for fluctuations in testing and/or the quality of reporting or failure to report. This chart also shows that, while the total number of COVID cases has grown overall since March 2020, there have certainly been surges. We also see that Oakland and Wayne counties continue to have the highest total number of COVID cases. Oakland County had the highest number of confirmed COVID cases at 104,354, followed by Wayne County with 104,090 new cases as of August 4, 2021. The City of Detroit had 52,394 confirmed cases.

Charts 2 and 3 provide a closer look at the number of new COVID cases over time. In Chart 2 we are reminded of the COVID case surges in fall/winter of 2020 and again in spring of 2021. However, as Chart 3 shows with a zoomed in look at the last month. New COVID case numbers are again on the rise. Oakland County had the highest number of new confirmed COVID cases on August 4, 2021 with 100, followed by Wayne County with 82 new cases and Macomb County with 56 new confirmed cases.

The daily data highlighted in these posts is from Michigan.gov/coronavirus, where data is updated daily at 3 p.m. Historical data were supplied from covidtracking.com, which republishes COVID data from the State. Additionally, the case totals do not reflect the number of people who have recovered, just those who have been infected. In June of 2020 the State changed how it reports its data on the website, making data more accurate in the long-term but more complicated to track as well. The State regularly updates older data, and as we continue to publish regular updates on COVID the State’s changes to past data many not always be reflected in our posts. The data published in this post is accurate for the day we it was received and published though.

The chart below (Chart 4) shows that Macomb County had the highest number of COVID confirmed cases per capita. According to the data released on August 6, 2021 by the State of Michigan, Macomb County had 111,540 COVID cases per million people. St. Clair County had the second highest number of confirmed cases per million people at 95,339. Washtenaw County had the lowest per capita rate at 71,278 confirmed COVID cases per million people.

While the current surge of COVID cases may not numerically appear to be as troubling as what we experienced in the spring and fall, the Delta variant is highly transmissible and a cause for both caution and concern, especially for the unvaccinated. As of last week the variant was confirmed in 40 different Michigan counties.

Gap Between Wages and Housing Affordability Grows in Southeastern Michigan

The eviction moratorium in place by the Centers for Disease Control ended July 30, and while programs funded through COVID Emergency Rental Assistance program are in place there is a deeper issue to be examined: affordable housing and a national living wage. According to data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition even if there weren’t a pandemic, the ability to obtain affordable housing and the ability to earn an hourly rate to afford housing continues to grow farther apart. In Michigan, according to the report, the average worker needs to earn $18.55 to afford a two-bedroom rental home at fair market value.

The average rule of thumb is that those who rent should spend about 30 percent of their income on their rental unit. In 2019, according to the American Community Survey, the average resident living in Wayne and Monroe counties was already living above that. According to the Census Bureau, the average percentage of gross income spent on rent in Wayne County was 32 percent and in Monroe County it was 30.7 percent. Macomb, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties were all at the 30 percent threshold (29.3%, 29.7% and 29.8%, respectively). Oakland County had the lowest percentage of gross median income spent on rent at 26.8 percent.

Further expanding on the gap between wages and access to housing, the National Low Income Housing Coalition released additional data drilling deeper into the hourly rate an individual would need to make in each county to afford a two-bedroom rental home (at fair market value) and what the current estimated hourly wage rate is for rent.

Washtenaw County has the highest housing wage rate in Southeastern Michigan at $24.31; this is the hourly amount an individual would need to make to afford a two-bedroom rental there. However, the current estimated hourly renter wage in Washtenaw County is $16.92; that is a $7.39 wage gap between current wage conditions and what is needed for local affordable housing security.

Livingston County has the largest gap between the average estimated renter wage and the hourly wage needed to secure a two-bedroom home at fair market value; that gap is $8.51. The current hourly renter wage in Livingston County is $12.26 and the amount needed to secure a two-bedroom home is $20.77.

Monroe County has lowest hourly wage needed to secure a two-bedroom home at $17.29 and the current estimated average hourly renter wage is $12.18, meaning there is a $5.11 gap.

The smallest gap between the hourly wage needed to secure a two-bedroom home and the current estimated average hourly renter wage is in Oakland County; that gap is $1.39. In Oakland County the average estimated current hourly renter wage is $18.78 and the hourly wage needed for a two-bedroom rental home is $20.17.

As the data shows, each county in Southeastern Michigan (and throughout the state), has a gap between the wages individuals earn and what it costs to obtain a home on the rental market. This gap means that many need to work more than 40 hours a week, sometimes closer to two full-time jobs.

In order to bridge this gap many changes need to occur; the two glaring ones would be additional affordable housing options added to the market and an increase in the minimum wage. The minimum wage in Michigan is $9.45, and it was not increased to $9.87 in 2021 because the average unemployment rate for 2020 was more than 8.5 percent. However, there have been pushes both nationally and state-wide to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour—but that has yet to widely come to fruition. In 2019 though Oakland County did adopt a $15 an hour minimum wage for County employees and Oak Park recently did the same for City employees. As businesses continue to try to attract and retain employees we are also seeing increases in the wages they are offering. However, while individual business and local governments implement living wages policies nothing is guaranteed without broader policies.

Great Lakes Levels Decline in 2021

A State of Emergency was declared for Wayne County due to flooding from Friday’s storm, I94 is still cannot be traversed in some places, and hundreds of residents in Southeastern Michigan will be dealing with flood damage to their homes for weeks–even months–to come. But, despite the onslaught of heavy rain, the Great Lakes levels remain lower than last year. 

How can this be? 


For perspective, one inch of water on Lakes Michigan and Huron is composed of 800 billion gallons of water. The 22 inches of water that has left Lake Michigan and Lake Huron over the last year represents 17.6 trillion gallons of water. It is total precipitation–rain and snowfall–that impacts water levels. Less precipitation and warmer days lead to lower lake levels. To put it in a different way, heavy snowfalls with low temperatures lead to greater ice coverage, causing less amounts of water to evaporate in the Great Lakes basin, and therefore leading to higher water levels. Evaporation levels are the highest when the temperature difference between the water and the air is high, and when the water is warmer than the air.

A State of Emergency was declared for Wayne County due to flooding from Friday’s storm, I94 is still cannot be traversed in some places, and hundreds of residents in Southeastern Michigan will be dealing with flood damage to their homes for weeks–even months–to come. But, despite the onslaught of heavy rain, the Great Lakes levels remain lower than last year. 

How can this be? 
For perspective, one inch of water on Lakes Michigan and Huron is composed of 800 billion gallons of water. The 22 inches of water that has left Lake Michigan and Lake Huron over the last year represents 17.6 trillion gallons of water. It is total precipitation–rain and snowfall–that impacts water levels. Less precipitation and warmer days lead to lower lake levels. To put it in a different way, heavy snowfalls with low temperatures lead to greater ice coverage, causing less amounts of water to evaporate in the Great Lakes basin, and therefore leading to higher water levels. Evaporation levels are the highest when the temperature difference between the water and the air is high, and when the water is warmer than the air.

According to the US Army Corps of Engineers, average lake levels for the Great Lakes Basin  for 2021 are much lower than what they averaged in 2020 during the month of June. Forecasted June 25, 2021 data from the US Army Corps of Engineers shows that the Lakes Michigan-Huron system is 22 inches below where it was on June 25 of 2020; the water level in Lake Ontario is 21 inches lower than where it was this time last year. Lake Superior, the largest and deepest lake in the Great Lakes, has water levels 7 inches below where it was in June of 2020. 

Less snowfall and warmer days meant the Great Lakes did not rise as high as they typically do in the spring. However, even though lake levels are lower than what they have been in recent years, they remain much higher than the long-term averages, with the exception of Lake Ontario. Lakes Michigan-Huron, Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair are all 13 or more inches higher than long-term averages. Lakes-Michigan-Huron are 13 inches higher than the long-term average while Lake St. Clair is 16 inches higher and Lake Erie is 14 inches higher. Lake Superior is 4 inches higher than the long-term June average, and Lake Ontario is 14 inches lower than the long-term June average. Of course, looking at how much higher current levels are than the lowest record monthly mean paints another picture.  Lakes Michigan-Huron, Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair are all 45-50 inches higher than the lowest record average in June. 

The shifts in weather patterns locally and beyond certainly mean changes for the long-term for what we may come to expect. Despite Great Lakes levels being low this year, on average, they remain higher than long-term averages. But, if we continue to have milder winters and hotter summers, then that will have the opposite effect on our Great Lakes–a loss of one of our greatest natural resources.  

Number of Michigan Concealed Pistol Licenses Continues to Rise

As of June 1, 2021 there were 751,102 approved Concealed Pistol Licenses (CPLs) in Michigan, a number that has been increasing over the years. Of that total, 46 percent of those license holders reside in Southeastern Michigan. Within Southeastern Michigan, Wayne County has the highest number of CPL holders at 120,164, followed by Oakland and Macomb counties (89,596 and 72,515, respectively).

In order to obtain a CPL a Michigan resident must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Be a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted into the United States
  • Be a legal resident of Michigan and reside in Michigan for at least six months immediately prior to application.
  • Not have been convicted of various crimes
  • Meet certain requirements regarding mental illness
  • Complete a CPL class

To view the entire criteria list click here

In 2016 County Gun Boards were eliminated; these bodies had the power to deny an individual a CPL if the license was deemed detrimental to the applicant or others. Now, County Clerks and the Michigan State Police process concealed weapon applications. As noted earlier, since then the number of CPLs in Michigan has increased. As of December 2016 there were 497,016 active CPLs in Michigan and now there are 751,102.

The cost of the CPL application process varies between counties (specifically County Clerk departments) and according to the Michigan State Police, in Southeastern Michigan it cost Washtenaw County the most, on average, to process an application at $36.08. Livingston County had the lowest average cost at $14.81. 

The data used for this post is from the Michigan State Police.

Work from Home Capabilities Continue to Drive Movement to the Metro-Detroit Suburbs

Suburbs are “in” again, according to recent research highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, after nearly a decade of increased migration to and interest in cities. However, while the pandemic has changed how many of us live, and plan to live, Census data shows that in Southeastern Michigan there has been a trend for some time of people leaving the more heavily populated areas and moving to the less dense areas, and increasing density there.

In 2019 Wayne County had the highest population density at 2,872 people per square mile. Detroit is located in Wayne County and in 2019 it had a population density of 4,689 per square mile, which remains the highest in the state despite decades of decline. As both the second and third map below show migration out of Wayne County has been the highest in the region since at least 2010. Between 2019 and 2014 there was a 1.8 percent decline in the population density of Wayne County and between 2010 and 2019 the total decline came in at 6 percent. Wayne County had a population of 1.75 million people in 2019 as compared to 1.77 million in 2014.

Washtenaw County, which had a population density of 520 people per square mile in 2019, experienced the highest percentage increase in population density between 2014-2019 and 2010-2019. According to Census data, between 2014-2019 there was a 4.3 percent increase in population density and between 2010-2019 there was a 6.7 percent increase. In 2019 Washtenaw County had a population of 367,601.

In Southeastern Michigan, Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties all had the highest population densities at 2,872, 1,814 and 1,475, respectively. While Wayne County has lost population in recent years, Macomb and Oakland counties gained it, and with that came an increase in density. Between 2010-2019 Macomb County experienced a 3.9 percent increase in its population density and Oakland County experienced a 4.4 percent increase. Aside from Washtenaw County, Livingston County was the only other one to experience an increase; between 2010-2019 Livingston County experienced a 3.6 percent increase in population density. Monroe and St. Clair counties remain the least densely populated and have lost density since 2010 (a smaller decrease than Wayne County).

According to HomeSnacks.com, which ranks the fastest growing communities based on Census data, the following places have experienced the highest percentage of population growth since 2010 in Michigan:

  • Rockford
  • Novi
  • Coldwater
  • Auburn Hills
  • East Grand Rapids
  • Chelsea
  • New Baltimore
  • Milan
  • Kentwood
  • Rochester

Of these 10 communities, three are  in Oakland County (Novi, Rochester, Auburn Hills), one is in Macomb County (New Baltimore) and two are in Washtenaw County (Chelsea and Milan); none are in Wayne, Washtenaw or Monroe counties, all of which have been losing residents.

So, while Southeastern Michigan has been experiencing the migration of residents out of the Detroit for sometime, it is expected to continue. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the pandemic has caused the largest cities in the country to experience an exodus of residents, in part, due to an increased accessibility of remote work. According to the Wall Street Journal’s analysis of US Post Service data and Census data, the Midwest, Northeast and West all lost residents since the pandemic began while the South gained residents.

A shift in migration also means there will be, eventually, a shift in the fiscal health of cities and regions. In areas where people are leaving, tax revenue will also depart. What this could mean for places like Detroit and Michigan has yet to remain seen. However, with the continued out-migration of residents from Michigan over the last decade we do know that the State is losing another Congressional seat.

Certain Detroit Crime Incidents Decrease in 2020

The Detroit Police Department publishes public data on the number of crime incidents that occur by type of crime, precinct and year on its open data portal. The information provided below has been retrieved from this data portal and highlights the number of incidents, not victim counts, for each Detroit precinct in 2019 and 2020. The crimes reported on in this post are:

•Assault: attempt to cause physical injury to another person;

•Aggravated assault: assault, without a weapon, that results in a serious or aggravated injury;

•Homicide: the killing of another person, whether intentional or not;

•Sexual assault: forcing or coercing an individual to engage in any non-consensual sexual contact or sexual penetration.

The number of reported incidents for each type of crime varies across the precincts but one data piece stands out amongst all four types of crime: there was a decrease in reported incidents between 2019 and 2020. In both 2019 and 2020 the highest number of reported incidents was under the assault category, followed by the aggravated assault category and then sexual assaults and homicides.

In 2019 the Detroit Police Department reported 17,233 assault incidents and in 2020 it reported 12,534 assault incidents. Of the 11 precincts, Precinct 8 had the highest number of assault incidents in both 2019 and 2020. In 2019 there were 2,505 assault incidents reported in Precinct 8 and 1,660 in 2020. Precinct 4 had the lowest number of reported assault incidents in 2019 at 913 and Precinct 7 had the lowest number of assault incidents in 2020 at 657.

In 2019 the Detroit Police Department reported a total of 7,708 aggravated assault incidents and in 2020 a lower number of 7,311 incidents was reported. In both 2019 and 2020 Precinct 9 had the highest number of reported aggravated assault incidents at 1,210 and 1,107, respectively. Precinct 3 had the lowest number of reported incidents in 2019 and 2020 at 421 and 315, respectively. 

Between 2019 and 2020 there was a decrease in the number of reported homicides in the City of Detroit, according to the police department’s open data portal. In 2019 there were 276 reported homicides and in 2020 there were 244. Precinct 9 had the highest number of reported homicides in both 2019 and 2020 at 42 each year. Precinct 3 had the lowest number of reported homicides in 2019 and 2020 at 8 and 12, respectively.

In 2019 there were 817 reported sexual assault incidents in the City of Detroit, according to the police department’s open data portal. In 2020 467 sexual assault incidents were reported. Precinct 9 had the highest number of reported incidents in 2019 at 131; this was the only precinct in 2019 and 2020 with more than 100 sexual assault incident reports. In 2020 Precinct 8 had the highest number of incidents reported at 57. In 2019 Precinct 7 had the lowest number of reported sexual assault incidents at 40 and Precinct 4 had the lowest number of reported incidents at 27 in 2020.

Recent 2019 FBI data highlights how crime rates across the country continued to increase from 2018 to 2019. For example, in Detroit, shootings and homicides rose for the second-straight year, by 53 percent and 19 percent, respectively. And, while national FBI crime data helps paint a broad picture on crime trends, the 2020 data provided by Detroit’s open data portal shows that in 2020 there was a decrease in crime incidents. Of those reported on here—assault, aggravated assault, homicide and sexual assault—there was a decrease from 2019 to 2020 across the board.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime the COVID-19 pandemic impacted crime statistics for several reasons. Certainly the initial lockdown, which kept many social interactions at bay, likely impacted the number of crimes that would have occurred early on. The drop in crime is correlated with the mobility of the population, so when restrictions were tighter there were fewer crimes reported, particularly property crimes (at homes, not businesses) and homicides. However, nationally, there was a spike in homicide rates in early summer, but it is unknown if that relates to the pandemic or other factors.

Additionally, while there was likely a decrease in the number of incidents there was also likely a decrease in reporting.

As we near the halfway mark of 2021, with vaccination rates increasing and restrictions loosening the question is whether crime rates increase from 2020 levels, remain the same or continue to decrease. As the pandemic continues to affect society, the changes in crime statistics helps us develop a deeper understanding of its affect on long-term crime rate trends.

Boston Edison/Dexter Linwood Area of Detroit Has Highest Percentage of Children with Elevated Blood Lead Levels

In 2019, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) reported 1,299 children under 6 years old had Elevated Blood Lead Levels (EBLL) in the City of Detroit. The Detroit zip code with the highest percentage of children under the age of 6 with EBLL was 48206, which is located in the Boston Edison/Dexter Linwood area of the City. Here, 15.5 percent of tested children under the age of 6 had an EBLL. Overall, there were 8 zip codes in Detroit where 10 percent or more of tested children under the age of 6 had an EBLL. Furthermore, the number of children with EBLL is likely substantially under reported of the true number. This is because only a third of the eligible children are tested, so if all were tested, it is likely than many more would have an EBLL. In addition, testing has substantially decreased during the pandemic.

The 8 zip codes with EBLL above 10 percent in Detroit in 2019 were:

  • 48202 (10.6%)
  • 48203 (10.5%)
  • 48204 (13.1%)
  • 48206 (15.5%)
  • 48213 (14.4%)
  • 48214 (12.3%)
  • 48215 (10.4%)
  • 48238 (10.9%)

These neighborhoods are amongst the oldest residential neighborhoods in the Detroit-Metro area. And, with a few exceptions, the zip codes with high numbers of children with EBLL have high percentages of black residents. The first map below shows the zip codes in Detroit with the percentage of children under the age of 6 with EBLL; the second map shows the percentage of black residents in Detroit and Metro-Detroit. The overlap is apparent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no safe level of lead, and even a small amount can cause irreversible damage. Yet, in Detroit several areas continue to be plagued with by lead exposure. There are several reasons behind this, many of which are impacted by income, poverty, access to safe and updated housing.

Lead paint was banned from use in 1978 yet there are more than 337,000 homes in Detroit built before 1980 (when lead paint came off the shelves), according to Census data. Additionally, income directly impacts what type of housing an individual and/or a family can afford. With a median income of $31,000 and 35 percent of families in the City living at or below the poverty level it is fair to suggest that many families are living in older, less expensive housing where hazardous issues are likely more prevalent, and these families cannot afford the $20,000 to $40,000 cost of abating the major lead hazards in the home. Lead paint is a top contributor to lead poisoning and without it being mitigated, lead poisoning will continue. Additionally, some children are lead poisoned through soil, spices, pottery and water. Also, leaded gasoline and demolitions have added lead dust to the soils in Detroit.

Children’s cognitive and physical health will continue to be impacted without mitigation of lead poisoning and its causes, specifically lead paint remaining in homes throughout the City. Children with EBLL can be impacted by the following side effects of the neurotoxin of lead:

 •Decreased Intelligence

•Decreased impulse control and thus increases reactivity

•Calcium deficiencies

•ADHD and Behavioral issues

•Osteoporosis

•Decreased school performance

•Permanent damage to kidneys and the heart

Concerns over lead poisoning and the resources needed to eliminate it have long been a topic of discussion, however without funding there can be no action. Funding needs to be direct and plentiful as well.  So a multi-faceted plan needs to provide regular lead testing, funding for lead abatement, and relocation means to get families out of homes that aren’t worth salvaging and into safer ones. Lead abatement and housing relocation programs exist, but the necessary funding to make a greater impact and create long-term sustainability clear has not been realized.

Long-term funding and policies to reduce and eventually eliminate lead poisoning should include:

•Universal blood lead testing for all children under 6 in each County in Southeast Michigan;

•A required Lead Investigation/Risk Assessment (LI/RA) for all homes at sale (for homes built before 1980) and required abatement of hazards, when they are found.

•A requirement for all landlords to complete a LI/RA and abate all hazards for homes older than 1980.

•An increase in the home abatements in Metro-Detroit by 400-500% annually.

•The financial and programmatic ability to support the relocation of several hundred households a year, where abatement is not available for their homes.

•A cleaning program for homes where children or pregnant women are living, and/or where a child has been identified with an EBLL or the home has lead paint hazards. This program would provide ongoing training and support to teach and incentivize families to super clean their homes until their home can be abated or until the family can relocate.

Majority of Detroit Home Problems Involve Water Inside

There are household problems, and then there are home problems. Home problems range from lead paint to inadequate infrastructure to high utility costs. The respondents of the 2021 Detroit Citizen Survey were provided a list of home problems and asked to identify which ones apply to their house or apartment. There were 570 respondents to this question and of those a total of 1,111 problems were identified.

High utility costs was the most common problem, which was identified by 275 people or 48 percent of the respondents. Water or dampness in the basement was the second most identified problem and plumbing issues was the third. Four of the five top problems (mentioned by 83% of householders) concern water in the home, and mold is later mentioned by another 9 percent. Water and dampness in homes is highly correlated with asthma, which is one of the most frequently occurring problems for children and adults in Detroit.

The University of Michigan recently produced a study titled “A Decent Home: The Status of Home Repair in Detroit,” which found that more than 24,000 housing units in Detroit are “severely or moderately inadequate,” but only about 3,000 residents were able to access funds to fix the problems. These funds are aimed at low income residents and provided through grants or loans.

A little background about Detroit’s housing stock, according to the US Census Bureau, 78 percent of Detroit’s housing stock was built before 1960. Of the occupied housing units in the City, 75 percent are worth less than $100,000. Additionally, 67 percent of the occupied rental units have rental prices of less than $1,000. The age of housing and its cost plays a role in ongoing home problems, as does the average income of a household. According to a Bridge Detroit article, 73 percent of Detroit renters earned less than $35,000 in 2019, and about half of those households spent at least 50 percent of their monthly income on rent in. This means either less money for home repairs or having to live in housing units that are less than desirable.

The City of Detroit does have a 0% Home Repair Loans Program that offers zero percent interest loans from $5,000 to $25,000 to help Detroit homeowners invest in and repair their homes. Projects that are eligible for funding through this program include correcting health and safety hazards, electrical repairs, furnace replacement, roof replacement and plumbing. Jefferson East Inc. and Rocket Community Foundations are two other organizations in the City that offer funding for home repairs