Monday, September 29, 2008

Crime and Punishment (and media coverage)

Mary — who grew up in Flint, moved to San Francisco, and then returned to the Vehicle City — reflects on how crime is covered in the two cities:

"The Flint Murder Map bothers me on a couple levels. I hate the catastrophic loss of life, of course. San Francisco has murders every day, too, but the Chronicle and Examiner don't document every crime that is committed. I was mugged twice in SF. Once on the bus (broke my baby finger but kept my purse). The second time was a block from my 5th Avenue and Lake Street apartment. No injuries, but my purse was stolen. The cops shrugged their shoulders, and I had to write up my own police report.

"Ironically, I've never been a victim of crime in Flint. (Oops, I just remembered the vandalism to my Chevy Chevette 30 years ago. The driver's side window was shot out when I was living at 3rd Street and Grand Traverse, and someone tried to steal or destroy the antenna. It might have been the "firethorn" color that enraged the perpetrators.) I don't have an overwhelming sense of impending danger when I leave home, though. But if I'd been mugged in Flint (unlike SF), there would have been stories in the Police Blotter in The Flint Journal. It's a question of scale. Anything that happens to anybody is news in Flint. Tragedy sells newspapers wherever one lives.

"I know some of the jaded Flint readers will think I'm a Pollyanna. Nothing will change if people don't believe it can. I'm not even talking about the power of positive thinking. Places can be revitalized and reborn. As long as Flint doesn't hang all its hope and grief on General Motors, it can move forward. Biogas will not be the savior, but it could be a little piece of the puzzle for getting Flint back on its feet."


  1. Interesting thought....if we all bury our heads in the sand and think good thoughts things will surely get better!

    Golly Gee, what a wonderful idea


    Murder maps for 2007 and 2008 are at the bottom of the page.

    Picking up the slack from the Chronicle.

  3. Firedande, I never realized how many murders there are on my side of town. Of course, that's where all the projects are located. The Sunset and The Richmond suddenly seem very safe.

  4. Jesus Christ Jacob, what do you suggest? Keep having your terrible attitude? That's been working so well for years around here. Every little problem here gets reported in The Flint Journal, and outsiders (including those in the suburbs) feed off of it. I tell everyone that it's not as bad as it's made out to be, and it's true. In the four years I've lived in the city I've only had two problems, and instead of running away to the 'safety' of the suburbs, I'm leaving my apartment complex and buying a house in Mott Park. I believe in this city and am willing to invest in it, and yes, I'm going to think positive. It can't hurt.

  5. I will say, I lived in Boston for years, and every single murder was portrayed in the media as the enormous tragedy that it genuinely was. Perhaps this was just the old "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality. But I really don't see a focus on lives lost as being an error.

  6. I agree with Sarah, and I think one of the primary purposes of the "murder map" in this blog is to call attention to the human beings who have lost their lives. It happens all too often in the Flint area and it is far too easy to lose sight of the person who has been killed and it is all too easy to overlook the impact it has on the families, friends, neighborhood and wider community. The "murder map" and entries here are an attempt to put a name to a face in the community as a whole rather than to call attention to yet another murder in such-and-such a neighborhood over on that other side of town.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at