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Do refugees make U.S. cities safer? Some (limited) research says yes

Newly-arrived Syrian refugees in Oakland County
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Is there a link between crime rates and refugee resettlement in the U.S.?

One group’s research suggests there is--a beneficial one, and that one Michigan city has benefited the most.

The research is from a group called Partnership for a New American Economy. It’s a nationwide group of mayors and businesspeople who tout the benefits of immigration.

Researchers looked at the 10 U.S. cities that have accepted the largest number of refugees over the past ten years, relative to their populations.

The Detroit suburb of Southfield is #6 on that list. It was the destination for 4,478 refugees from 2006-2015, mostly from Iraq.

During that time, Southfield’s violent crime rate, based on FBI crime statistics, plummeted more than 77%. Property crime also dropped 46% during that time.

That was the largest crime reduction during that period of the 10 cities the researchers investigated.

The research is limited in scope, and no one claims to draw any definitive conclusions from it.

Still, the researchers noted what they call “a telling pattern": 9 out of the 10 cities became “considerably more safe” during that time period.

The one notable exception: West Springfield, Massachusetts, #4 on the list. There, violent crime surged nearly 88% during the same period.

But the researchers note that area has been an epicenter of the opioid drug epidemic, and related crime, starting at least as early as 2005.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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