In Detroit, Rich Crime, Poor Crime

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The case of the dismembered torso was shocking, even for the Detroit area, which has seen a recent slew of awful urban crimes. Or was the case of Tara Grant gripping because it took place in the city's richer, whiter suburbs?

For nearly three weeks, Grant's disappearance from her suburban home in Macomb County had dominated Detroit, pushing aside the region's larger, ongoing travail — the decline of Ford Motor Co. and reports that DaimlerChrysler wanted to dump its American partner. Then, last week, the grisly discovery of the missing woman's dismembered torso in the family garage shocked even the sheriff. "We were expecting to find a computer but we didn't think we'd find any remains or body parts. It was quite a surprise. It wasn't what we expected," said Sheriff Mark Hackel.

Police asked for a search warrant after a hiker in a nearby park not far from the Grant home found a plastic bag with rubber gloves, blood stains and metal shavings and brought it to the sheriff's department, says Hackel. Grant's husband Stephen had appeared frequently on local television after his wife's disappearance pleading for her return. But after police discovered the his wife's remains hidden in the garage, Grant fled to northern Michigan, where he was later found wandering shoeless in a snowed-in wooded area. As he was treated for frostbite, Grant admitted to strangling his wife and dismembering her body at his family's tool-and-die shop. Grant then put several pieces of his wife in garbage bags, scattering them in a wooded section of parkland close to the family home in a semi-rural area laced with muddy dirt road and snow-covered fields more than 40 miles north of the center of Detroit.

The discovery of Grant's torso overshadowed a number of brutal murders in the poorer parts of Detroit. Andrew Anthos, 72, was badly beaten on Feb. 13 while he was trying to help a wheelchair-bound neighbor stuck in the slush outside his Detroit home. The attacker, according to witnesses, had harassed Anthos as he rode home on the city bus. Before he died on Feb. 23, Anthos, who was gay, told police his killer had called him a faggot and later followed him off the bus. "We believe this was a hate crime," says Melissa Pope of the Triangle Foundation's Detroit office. Anthos' assailant still hasn't been caught but Pope says police believe they will catch him. The day Anthos died, police found two boys, Orlando Herron, 13,and Darren Johnson, 12, shot to death execution-style in a house on Detroit's West Side. Detroit police now have in custody six suspects whom they believe killed the boys and ransacked the home while looking for drugs and money.

Over the years, Detroiters have become almost desensitized to such urban mayhem. Michael Cox, Michigan's attorney general, told TIME that Detroit has averaged one murder per day for more than two decades. Detroit's murder rate of 39.3 per 100,000 is six times as great as New York, more than three times that of Los Angeles and more than double that of Chicago. "It's even higher than in Philadelphia," says Cox, adding the total number of murders in Detroit climbed more than 17% last year. While 3,100 American soldiers have died in the war in Iraq, 1,518 Detroiters have been murdered during roughly the same four-year stretch from the beginning of 2003 to the end of 2006, says Cox. "The mayor is doing everything he can but he needs more resources," says Cox.

Detroit's chronic deficit, however, has forced the mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, to take officers off the street when more are needed. The state of Michigan, which is also facing a $2 billion budget deficit in the wake of the rapid downsizing of the state's automobile industry, is doing all it can to help Detroit, says Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Governor Jennifer Granholm. The state has cracked down on offenders caught using guns in a crime and has worked to improve the coordination between federal, state, county and local police in and around Detroit. Cox says poverty and unemployment certainly have helped shape Detroit's culture of violence. "I know in the 1960s people thought poverty was a cause of crime," says Cox. "But I also think now we know crime is also a cause of poverty."