From the vault: 1975 special on murder in Detroit

Increase in gun sales after riots linked to increase in homicides

By John Steckroth - Editor

DETROIT - Homicide statistics carefully collected by police departments over time can offer a glimpse into the state of a city. 

This WWJ-TV (which later became WDIV) special from 1975 focuses on how Detroit transitioned from the "Paris of the West" to "Murder Capital of the U.S" and tells the stories of some of the city's more noteworthy murders at the time. 

EDITOR'S WARNING: This documentary about murder in Detroit from 1975 includes extremely graphic images.

On April 25, 1975, a 15-year-old boy shot a 17-year-old with a revolver.

Two days prior, two brothers were playing cards and one of them pulled a gun during an argument. Their mother was shot dead.

A husband and wife were arguing just two days before that incident. She stabbed him and he died hours later.

Homicide is still a huge problem in the city of Detroit, but in 1975 the city was known as the murder capital of the U.S.

Detroit homicides between 1965 and 1974

As other crimes would have spikes and lulls from year to year, homicide continued to be a “growth industry" in Detroit, as is explained in this special. In 10 years, the homicide total increased by a factor of five.

In 1974, 751 people were killed.

Businesses flee to suburbs, crime increases in city

The central business district of Detroit declined during the 1970s and was described as a “zone of decay.”

Commerce fled to the suburbs and major hotels attracted fewer clients. Hudson’s cut back its selling space and other department stores closed their downtown branches.

Movie theaters folded one after another until there were no longer any downtown.

Bullet proof shields were installed at convenient stores that ran from counter to ceiling and housing complexes began putting up walls.

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Gun sales rise after 1967 riots

Gun sales, both legally and illegally purchased, rose after the riots in Detroit as crime continued to rise.

By 1975, there were an estimated 500,000 guns in the city. Some 30,000 firearms used in crimes were confiscated each year.

Authorities believed the rise in guns sales was due to fear after the 1967 riots.

Detroit hospitals would see about 5,000 gunshots wounds or stabbings a year in 1975. Stabbings were more prevalent before 1968, but the ratio changed as gun sales rose.

Crime in Detroit today

According to the Detroit Police Department, there were a total of 302 homicides in 2016.

READ: Chief Craig addresses 2016 crime statistics in Detroit

The number of non-fatal shootings, carjackings and robberies dropped last year, as was aggravated assaults, burglaries and larcenies, but homicides were up 2.4 percent.

The number of homicides has decreased since 1975, but so has the population. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates Detroit's population as of 2015 at 677,116 people.

In 1970, Detroit was the fifth largest city in the U.S. with over 1.5 million people.

 

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