You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 6:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor is safe thanks to a police force that works well despite necessary budget cuts

By Guest Column


A recently released list of 405 FBI-reporting jurisdictions shows that Ann Arbor is consistently in the top 20 percent of safe cities.

Steve Pepple |

Anyone interested in thoughtfully analyzing whether Ann Arbor has made wise decisions regarding its police services should consider several factors:

1) What is our crime rate; what police services do we need?

2) What are our available resources; what police services can we afford?

3) How does crime in Ann Arbor compare to other communities; how do our police perform?

A recent guest opinion (“Ann Arbor lacks adequate policing levels to keep the city safe,” by Stephen Ranzini) avoids this serious inquiry. It expresses a belief that Ann Arbor is no longer safe, and cites prominently as evidence out-county statistics and anecdotes from the online comment section of This opinion runs counter to the plain and relevant facts.

Ann Arbor’s long-term crime rate continues to drop


Christopher Taylor is a member of the Ann Arbor City Council.

It’s a fact. Crime in Ann Arbor is on a long, steady decline. Part One, Serious Crimes - the official and accurate numbers tracked by the FBI - show a drop of 14% from 2002 to 2010.

If you include 2011, Part One, Serious Crimes are down 27%. As crime numbers plummeted in 2011, then Police Chief Barnett Jones said repeatedly that 2011 was anomalous - well outside the usual steady 2%-3% decline. It’s no wonder then that crime is “up” this year when compared to 2011, but it could well even out by December 2012. Any police chief will tell you it’s the long-term trends that matter.

To achieve a better understanding of crime trends, read reporter Ryan Stanton’s February 2012 article on Steady decline. Or you might read the article tracking crime in Ann Arbor over the last 30 years in the December 2011 Ann Arbor Observer, “Ann Arbor’s Better Angels.” The subtitle says it all: “Crime is Down, Way, Way, Way Down.”

Ann Arbor has devoted disproportionate resources to safety services

Michigan has over 3,000 fewer police officers than in 2001. Ann Arbor’s critics may tire of hearing this, but it’s the simple truth - lower property values, near zero percent interest rates, the university’s purchase of the Pfizer facility, and deep cuts in state revenue sharing decimated the city’s revenue over the last decade while legacy pension and especially health care costs continued to rise. Any evaluation of city services that does not fully recognize and engage this reality is simply frivolous.

Although it has remained focused on providing a balanced set of services - safety services have always been the city’s top priority. Safety services accounted for approximately 40 percent of the general fund budget in 2002. Now, even after accounting for functions no longer in the general fund, safety services amounts to approximately 50 percent of our budget.

The general fund supports many core functions - safety services, parks, courts, public services, planning, and human services. Unless we were to make massive cuts, there just aren’t resources available to significantly augment AAPD. So if you want more officers now, shall we cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from parks? Should we zero out human services? Ann Arbor has many core services; with limited resources we need a balanced approach.

Ann Arbor is a safe community

Crime will never be eliminated. Furthermore, as Chief Jones often said, a disproportionate amount of crime is inherent in university towns. Even so, by any rational measure, Ann Arbor is a safe city.

Although it has remained focused on providing a balanced set of services - safety services have always been the city’s top priority. Safety services accounted for approximately 40 percent of the general fund budget in 2002. Now, even after accounting for functions no longer in the general fund, safety services amounts to approximately 50 percent of our budget.

A recently released list of 405 FBI-reporting jurisdictions shows that Ann Arbor is consistently in the top 20 percent of safe cities. Most of the cities ahead of Ann Arbor are smaller or don’t have major university campuses. Here are some of the relevant rankings for university towns: Boulder 86; Evanston 115; Madison 139; Eugene 177; Berkeley 278; and South Bend 316.

Where is Ann Arbor on this list? 78. Among Michigan cities with a population over 100,000, only Sterling Heights 36, has lower crime than Ann Arbor; followed by Warren 255; Grand Rapids 291; Lansing 345; Detroit 403; and Flint 405.

Our success is hardly surprising. Some people forget that Ann Arbor has two police forces - the University of Michigan has 55 sworn, armed officers who cooperate fully with the AAPD and are authorized to act throughout Ann Arbor. Furthermore, and most importantly, the professionals in the AAPD do tremendous work, day in and day out. When it comes to investigating crimes and making arrests, the AAPD is extremely capable as the recent string of armed robbery and graffiti arrests demonstrate. There was a surge of B&E’s early this year, but AAPD made several arrests, the “bubble” popped, and B&E’s have leveled off. Chief Jones, and now interim Chief John Seto, had asked AAPD to perform with grace and skill in deeply difficult times. AAPD’s rank and file delivered. They do it every day.

Better times bring better options

We’re not out of the woods, but Ann Arbor’s budget has turned a corner. Carefully balanced budgets that avoid using one-time funds for recurring expenses have helped make our community the envy of Michigan. The 2-year budget plan passed in May 2011 called for 10 fewer police officers in fiscal year 2013. That all changed on May 21, 2012, when the City Council voted for a budget that fills all 10 vacancies, adds another full-time officer, and starts a “recruit” program to hire 5 part-time, downtown-focused, officers. As times improve, we will naturally evaluate our responsible choices.

We all want more officers. The questions are: Do we NEED more officers? Can we AFFORD more officers? In light of our declining crime rate, the lingering effects of the Great Recession, and AAPD’s irrefutable success compared against similar jurisdictions, the only reasonable conclusion is that Ann Arbor is a remarkably safe community, with the best Police Department it can afford.

Christopher Taylor is an attorney and a member of the Ann Arbor City Council, representing the 3rd Ward. You may reach him at



Fri, Jun 8, 2012 : 7 p.m.

Seems to me that Chris Taylor is a highly educated, well informed council member who is fully engaged in the issues which we care about - and he is NOT representing my ward. Just an observation from around 1:00 AM this morning: I walked from my place to Main Street because I had a craving for corn chips & the only open "store" within easy distance was the BP gas station at William & Main. In that brief time (under 15 minutes) I saw patrol cars go by twice and could see another (3rd) patrol car stopped with flashers on about 2 blocks away on William. That's three cops visible in less than 15 minutes on the streets of Ann Arbor at 1 AM. I've repeatedly observed the same amount of coverage over the past few months - I DOUBT Ann Arbor is suffering much of a police / patrol coverage problem. I also observed many other people singly and as couples walking out there - "in the middle of the night" when some people claim that the city is oh-so-dangerous. I moved to Ann Arbor 37 years ago: not because it was safer but most of all to be with my fiance. I soon noticed the better (richer by far) quality of life here and still consider that the second most important aspect of Ann Arbor. I have relatives & friends scattered around the state and around the country: I think I am LUCKY by comparison to live here. I also think I see a lot of spoiled, overly demanding people complaining (at every opportunity) on this topic of "public safety." I for one take responsibility for keeping myself and loved ones safe. I have taken precautions to keep my valuables and property safe, I have spent time and money on training and licensing so that I am able to defend myself with necessary and equal force if needed. Lousy artistic choices not withstanding: I still think Ann Arbor is one of the best places in the country to live and work.

shadow wilson

Fri, Jun 8, 2012 : 3:05 p.m.

Forty five minute for aapd to respond to armed robbery at bro adw ay party store does not inspire one to think they are necessarily safe...........statistics mean nothing when someone is trying to break into your home and the police don' come.........when that happens to Taylor et, al then their tune will change.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 12:50 p.m. While Im not blaming the Police by any means, but City Council members should look at stories like this before funding public Art or installing unnecessary bike lanes instead of Fire and Police services.

shadow wilson

Fri, Jun 8, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

that was not in ann arbor

mike umbolt

Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

Mr. Ranzini: You are incorrect. If the fund reserve was not built from general fun revenues the city council cannot move them without putting the city's bond rating in danger, putting the city at risk for litigation and fines, etc. It is remarkable that the city has a solid financial base and sufficient reserves and as someone else noted above, there was only a small tax increase when the residents wanted the city to take over the sidewalk maintenance.

mike umbolt

Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

FormerRes: You are 100% wrong. I called the AAPD and was referred to the person who compiles the data. UM crimes are included in the AAPD crime stats, no question about it.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 9:49 a.m.

Mr. Taylor, your constituents say otherwise. If you factor in all the crime that happens on the campus as well, I think you would have to admit that criminals in and around AA are pretty busy. Oh, that's right UM crime stats are not included in the city stats. Sorry for letting the secret out. If AA voters are smart they'll make some changes election time. Might be a good idea for City Council to work on getting more of the panhandlers registered, I'd guess.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 10:22 p.m.

Ann Arbor isn't safe place is safe, never was world in peace . to say that Ann Arbor is safe would mean no crime and no people :) Detroit is safe compared to a war zoon ,,,make you fell better to say sO?

shadow wilson

Fri, Jun 8, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

wrong Detroit is not safe by any measure.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 8:35 p.m.

@Gale Logan: While it is true that money cannot be taken from dedicated funds, and it is true that the general fund's reserves ("rainy day funds") are roughly $14 million, at least $100 million of the city's overall reserves are in accounts under the sole control of city council and if city council wanted to vote a new rule, could move that money around to any of its 58 separate funds ('buckets"), including the general fund. You are correct, there is another $150 million roughly in funds whose purpose is restricted by the source of the money. So, in total there is $250 million in reserves held by the city of Ann Arbor, of which $100 million is under the control of city council's whim and of that just $14 million is available to the general fund from which the police and fire fighters are paid. Please note the numbers are approximate and based on the latest city audited financial statement or "CAFR". Feel free to actually read the CAFR yourself and post the actual numbers if you want exact precision.

Gale Logan

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 7:57 p.m.

Council member Taylor does a good job of sticking to the important facts. Ann Arbor is a very safe city. It has been explained here on several times but it never fails that someone will bring up art and say the $$ should be spent on police or fire. Sorry folks, except for a maximum of $50,000 that may have been spent early on, no General Fund money goes to art. So, one police officers total compensation could have been paid for a little less than 6 months. But only once. The art dollars come from spending on capital projects (less than 1%) from dedicated funds and to break into these funds to spend the money on police would lead to legal and financial problems for the city and possible action by the state attorney general.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 10:24 p.m.

stop it ! no city in the worlds is safe...danger is always you better stay away from Ann Arbor club night life :)

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

I also wrote in my column: "The new 2013 budget pays for 7 more [police]. Of course with the crime spree at the start of 2012, the 2011 level of crime may be a low that we may not see in 2012 and more staff may be required." "Is it enough? The key to making the correct decision is to know if police are responding timely, which is no, and if the department is solving an average level of serious crimes compared to similar cities, but Interim Chief Seto told me that he is still assembling that data." Councilman Taylor and I agree on the last point. We need the data on whether or not crimes in our community are being solved at a rate higher or lower than comparable cities to know if the investigative staff need to be increased or not. Why we don't have this data available is puzzling and it would seem to me a failure. If you can't measure something, you can't manage it! We don't need too few or too many police, just the level required to accomplish the two tasks I mentioned above, responding timely and solving at least an average number of crimes.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 11:59 a.m.

Agreed, Mr. Stephen Lange Ranzini, seems to be a bit of self-righteous. While it is easy to refute others, it is an entirely different story to aggregate and research previous data and compile it in such a way that it makes sense to the average citizens. Mr. Taylor did just that and we appreciate it.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 4:36 a.m.

Your columns and comments feature the word "I" an alarming amount. Where would this City be without you.....

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

I wrote the following about crime rates in my column. Mr. Taylor is ignoring the details of which crimes are down and which are up, and those details are important. "Since 2002, part 1 crimes have gone down from 3,770 to 2,758. That is 73 percent of the 2002 level. While local officials proudly note that crime has been trending down, this is part of a well known movement nationwide and the size of the drop locally has lagged behind drops in crime in the rest of Michigan. Also of note, the decrease in crimes in our county was solely due to a decrease in vehicle thefts (part of a nationwide trend due to improved car anti-theft technology. Rapes had a significant increase (160 vs. 128) and most other categories except burglaries (2,446 vs. 2,005) had a small decrease. More recent reports indicate a reversal of the trend toward lower rates of crime, confirmed to me by interim Police Chief John Seto. I believe that this is based on a wave of increased illegal drug usage, including increased heroin usage driven by inexpensive exports flooding in from Afghanistan, which supplies most of the world's heroin. Most crime is driven by an urgent desire for money to buy illegal hard drugs. The wave of heroin usage locally is severe." Fewer professional car thieves, but more burglars, rapists, heroin and Oxycontin users doing small time crime to steal their next hit doesn't sound like a good trade off to me and my family. But hey, everyone is entitled to an opinion. Feel free to add yours. At least I am got the discussion going on what we need and why.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 3:43 a.m.

@Roadman: it is generally accepted that Afghanistan is the source of at least more than half of all heroin in the world. For example, "As of 2004, roughly 87% of the world supply of opium and its derivatives, including heroin, was thought to be produced in Afghanistan. However, production in Mexico has risen six-fold from 2007 to 2011, changing that percentage and placing Mexico as the second largest opium producer in the world. See, and citations from BBC News, Latin American & Caribbean: "Mexico targets heroine (sic) poppy plantations." Eric Camara 16 November 2011 and "Afghanistan opium survey - 2004" (PDF). United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Retrieved 2006-10-22. Look what we got from our $1 trillion war in Afghanistan. What a waste of our money!


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 10:42 p.m.

I dispute your assertion most heroin emanates from Afghanistan. It is only one of the nations of Asia that produces heroin. Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, the poppy-growing regions of Turkey, Iran and Thailand are some of the areas where heroin is manufactured from opium growers.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 7:26 p.m.

The AAPD is overpaid. Compare it to City of Detroit officers and suburban communities. There are numerous detectives getting over $100,000.00 per annum and patrolmen receiving over $80,000.00 per year. This is largely due to overtime because of court appearances. The low crime rate is due to the fact Ann Arbor is a university community and few students commit armed robberies, murder, or arson. Ask the City Attorney's office how many civil rights suits are pending due to alleged police misconduct. Ask minority community leaders like Blair Shelton how he believes that police have treated those of color in recent years; ask Shelton how he views acting chief of police John Seto. I salute former Councilperson Rapundalo in cutting the employee benefit package of the AAPD down to size. I do agree with most that I would rather have more patrolmen than goofy artwork at City Hall.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

I would like to thank Chris Taylor for writing a well-researched and informative editorial. He's a very thoughtful member of the City Council and represents citizens in the 3rd ward well.

Janet Neary

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 3:43 p.m.

I am not particularly interested in the details of crime statistics, which are affected by many factors, some of them out of our control. What is important about public safety is how we are protected in those rare life threatening emergencies. We have a right to expect that ambulances, fire engines, and police officers will deal with emergencies quickly and effectively. I was very disturbed to read the comment by Irwin Daniels (to the other opinion piece, by the Bivouac owner, saying we have no crime problem) in which he said that the police recently responded only after 45 minutes and 4 separate calls to 911 when someone was in the act of trying to break into his house on Geddes near the Arb. Of course there may be some unknow extenuating circumstance, but I find his story very frightening and not at all what I would expect if I called 911 about someone breaking into my house. That's far more important than any abstract statistics.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

I like Chris personally, he is a nice guy, but... calling 911 and waiting 45 mins for an officer to respond in Ann Arbor is ridiculous when only 4 years ago someone was their a lot more quickly. Perhaps when this has happened to Chris personally or to someone he knows he will get more of a sense of what is frustrating people, responding officers now seem to be embarrassed (read ashamed) that they didn't get the call from dispatch as quickly or took so long to get their, so I am guessing that they are frustrated too. I miss my beat cops downtown, there was a pulse on the neighborhood, I had their cards with their cell numbers and could call them with info. There is less of a sense of community and safety when you don't see a cop for weeks even in traffic.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

I don't personally consider Ann Arbor a hotbed of crime, but surely everyone agrees public safety is what most citizens most want from city government. When in the face of cutbacks in those services the city funds art work while the council debates five minute no-idle ordinances, backyard hen houses, and the crushing problem of pedestrian walkways, it is hard to take the council as seriously as it seems to take itself. Mr. Taylor's attempt to spin completely understandable voter resentment as unwarranted signals he is either stupid or a liar, and he probably isn't really as stupid as he may sound.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

The police do a remarkable job in the face of cutbacks and judges who feel criminals deserve a "second" chance and are far more important than citizens who do not seek a life of crime.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

Clearly, statistics do little to impact perceptions by the local populace. While the evidence does imply a decrease in the overall crime rate for Ann Arbor, the perception that we are not safe continues to linger. In addition, the rather hasty departure by Chief Jones didn't help. In fact, if things have improved so much as the figures indicate then why did he leave?

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

Wisely, when Mr. Taylor is spewing forth about 'safety', he doesn't bring up fire protection. Or those cuts. Or how he and the Mayor enjoyed bashing the hard working members of both the Fire and Police departments. Guess it's nice and cozy there in Burns Park with the suggestion to reopen the Stadium/Packard station, while closing down two others?

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

"Or you might read the article tracking crime in Ann Arbor over the last 30 years in the December 2011 Ann Arbor Observer, "Ann Arbor's Better Angels." The subtitle says it all: "Crime is Down, Way, Way, Way Down."" The Ann Arbor Observer of 2012 is not the same hard hitting news outlet as it was in years past. I'm sure political hacks like Taylor celebrate this fact every day.

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

"To achieve a better understanding of crime trends, read reporter Ryan Stanton's February 2012 article on" Ah...a politician PRAISING investigative reporting. Something wrong with this picture. And thanks for today's article on how safe we are. And being the uncritical newsletter for the Council Party. NOT what we were promised with the death of the Ann Arbor News.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

This is a guest op-ed, not an "article" from Can you truly not distinguish between the two?

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 12:01 p.m.

I have a feeling my idea of a city's "core functions" might be smaller than Mr. Taylor's idea of "core functions" If so I could find more money for police and fire by slashing some "frivolous functions" that he calls "core functions". "....the University of Michigan has 55 sworn, armed officers who cooperate fully with the AAPD and are authorized to act throughout Ann Arbor." they may be authorized to act throughout Ann Arbor, but do they? Or do they mostly stick to their own bailiwick?


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 11:15 a.m.

Attention, regular commenters: to facilitate saving time and energy, please knee-jerk your respnse to this column by picking to one of the following letters: (A) Numbers don't tell the real story. Ann Arbor crime is going up due to the irresponsible police cutbacks by mayor and council. They're wasting our money on art, not public services. (B) Ann Arbor would have much less crime if everyone carried a gun, especially on campus. (C) Hooray for Ann Arbor's cops. Get the politicians and bureaucrats out of the way so they can do their job. (D) Ann Arbor's cops spend all day writing traffic tickets and busting medical marijuana suppliers; no wonder they can't do any real police work. (E) We need tougher judges who lock up the criminals and throw away the key. Just don't use any of my tax dollars to pay for it!

Unusual Suspect

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

Forum cop


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

Very funny post Boris, though one more option (F) would be appreciated: (F) Thanks to Mr. Taylor for providing a sane, fact-based response to Ranzini's sky-is-falling column.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 12:02 p.m.

nicely done ;)


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 11:14 a.m.

My questions : Do we NEED more public funded taxpayer art? Can we AFFORD more taxpayer funded public art?