My short bio: I’ve been a cops reporter for the Flint Journal in Flint, Michigan, America’s most dangerous city, since 2010. My work appears on

According to FBI statistics, Flint had more than 2,774 violent crimes in 2012. They included 63 murders, 108 rapes, 673 robberies and 1,930 aggravated assaults. The second most violent city, Detroit, had about 600 less crimes per capita than Flint, data shows.

My first week on the beat news surfaced that there was a serial killer on the loose. I covered the hunt for the killer, his arrest while trying to get out of the country and his trial where he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Flint set records for homicides in 2010, and then broke that record last year. Violent crime in the suburbs has also increased.

My day starts at 5 a.m. where I follow up on anything from the previous night and I respond to any breaking news during my shift. I go out to crime scenes and talk to witnesses, cops and family members of the deceased if I can.

Here are recent stories I have written:

A tragic summer for Flint's Freeman Elementary School as third student dies

Investigators take three dump trucks of vehicle parts, including from blue Gremlin suspected in 1970s Oakland County Child Killer case

Suburban Genesee County crime increases as police forces dwindle

Flint crime doubled as size of police force was cut in half, analysis shows

My Proof:

Hey reddit, Thanks so much for all of the questions and comments. I've been doing this for a few hours and had a great time, but I have to get back to work.

Please check out my posts on MLive here

and follow me on Twitter here.

Comments: 1907 • Responses: 31  • Date: 

martlet1829 karma


David_Harris_AMA366 karma

Not sure, haha. But I enjoyed the movie. My favorite scene was when Jackie tackles the Russian guy who is making the last shot to give everyone in the crowd free corn dogs. Cracks me up every time.

codemastercool400 karma

What do you think about the stark contrast between the cities in Michigan? Ann Arbor, where I live, is constantly in the top five cities to live in (lists based on various criteria.), yet you have the most dangerous city in the country not too far away.

Edit: also, has living in Flint desensitized you to more violent crimes?

David_Harris_AMA536 karma

This is just my opinion, but cities like Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids for that matter, were not as tied to the auto industry as Flint and Detroit. They have much more diverse economies with different businesses, including universities. Flint has never been able to put back in what GM left.

RunsWithPremise255 karma

I lived in Flint and went to Kettering. I used to live on Sunset over by Mott Park and the golf course.

One thing that always intrigued me about Flint was that it was this crime-ridden town with all kinds of violence and theft, yet you could go weeks at a time without realizing you were in that sort of a town. It just seemed like an interesting dichotomy to me. We would go to school and walk past normal middle class neighborhoods and then, one day, we'd randomly see a guy hanging by his neck from the bridge over the Flint River.

Knowing what you know and seeing what you see, do you ever fall into that illusion that Flint is a "normal" town from time to time? Or is that now impossible for you?

David_Harris_AMA151 karma

I've always felt that Flint was far from normal. I think covering it up close has made me realize that even more.

Mareeena211 karma

Is there anything nice about the city? Parks, attractions, etc.?

David_Harris_AMA260 karma

There are many good things about the city. The downtown has seen a revival the last 10 years or so with new bars, restaurants and residential apartments. The local colleges, the University of Michigan-Flint, Kettering (formerly General Motors Institute), Baker and Mott Community College, have grown.

Plus we have two really awesome events, The Crim Road Race and Back to the Bricks car show, that bring hundreds of thousands of people in the city.

Mike_Ellis87 karma

I worked with Dave at our college paper. Cool that he's doing an AMA. As a crime reporter in one of the not-most-dangerous cities in America (Anderson, SC), I can vouch that a lot of what he's saying applies elsewhere but it's good to hear it from a guy in the thickest of it. Keep up the good work, DH! - Mike

Edit - to clarify that I'm the reporter in SC.

David_Harris_AMA60 karma

Thanks, Mike! Good to hear from you!

RunsWithPremise27 karma

I used to enjoy the Sloan Museum. I'm a car guy, so that was always neat for me.

We were all bummed when Happy Hour got bulldozed.

David_Harris_AMA34 karma

Yeah, I forgot to mention the Flint Cultural Center where Sloan is, and also Flint Institute of Arts, Flint Institute of Music, two theaters and a planetarium. Also, the Flint Farmer's Market is pretty awesome.

I_love_Gingers22 karma

Don't forget the Mott Estate! Applewood is gorgeous.

David_Harris_AMA18 karma

You are right! I remember when I was in elementary school we went to the estate to sing Happy Birthday to Mrs. Mott, lol.

Kzoo3316 karma

Tried the crepe company yet?

David_Harris_AMA20 karma

Yup. It's right across the street from the office. Just went on Friday!

Peatles157 karma

All of my family is from Flint and lives all over the city and the township. With current unemployment rates being reported at just above 10% in Flint and about 7.1% in Flint township, unemployment seems to be effecting Flint like other cities in the US. What do you think is the main cause for the violence other than unemployment and the economy?

David_Harris_AMA316 karma

Not necessarily in order: Lack of education, loss of hope, declining police force, lost city services, breakdown of the family structure, lack of respect for life

murphk59121 karma

Why do you personally think Flint is the most dangerous city in the U.S? Edit: This is totally the most obvious question ever.

David_Harris_AMA209 karma

Flint's economy has been downtrodden for decades. Consider this: Michael Moore's film "Roger and Me" is almost 25 years old. That movie showed much of Flint's economic problems, which has only gotten worse since.

The Flint Police Department has been depleted, losing almost half of its force since 2003. The family structure has broke down, as the old adage goes "kids are having kids," the dropout rate at Flint schools is high and the schools test among the lowest in the state.

Finally, there can be a lack of respect for life. In one case, police said a homeless man was stomped to death because the attacker felt "disrespected"

kayaktrail91 karma

Is there any specific crime that has troubled you more than others?

David_Harris_AMA355 karma

Any crime dealing children is hard. We had a 9-year-old and 12-year-old killed in separate homicides this summer.

Also, these two stories dealing with children slain will haunt me forever. Dominick Calhoun was a 4-year-old boy killed by his mother's boyfriend. The boyfriend was convicted as was the boy's mother for not doing enough to stop it.

Also, a 6-year-old boy was killed when a man fired a gun into the car the boy was riding in with his father. The suspect and the father had an argument over a drug debt. I interviewed the family, and the boy had a twin brother, who was asked what he would tell his brother. He said "Duck."

Smeeee91 karma

What are your thoughts on Michael Moore? Do you think anything he has produced has impacted Flint in any way?

David_Harris_AMA108 karma

Michael is certainly a controversial figure in the city. Flint would certainly be less known nationally if it wasn't for his movies.

Mrloberflob78 karma

What is the biggest story you've had?

David_Harris_AMA146 karma

My biggest story was the serial killer killer in the summer of 2010. Elias Abuelazam was accused of stabbing to death 5 people and injuring 9 others. There is a link to the look-back story in the intro.

Edit: link here

xcallmejudasx58 karma

Ahh the Flint Stabber. The sketch that was originally released looked exactly like a guy I knew at Kettering. That was an akward time for him to have to do anything around the city.

David_Harris_AMA47 karma

Here is a story with the sketch

To me, it didn't look a thing like Abuelazam. But like a cop said to me one time: it looked enough like him to somebody

Buttsmuggler6972 karma

What steps, if any do you think the city could take to reduce crime to a more manageable level?

David_Harris_AMA163 karma

I've said this before: If I had millions, I would start a program similar to the Kalamzaoo Promise that pays for college education for kids in that city and if I had superpowers, I would entrust respect of others into everyone.

InebriatedQuail55 karma

First off, thanks for what you do. You've got an incredibly important, and likely dangerous, job, and by the look of your stories, you're doing a great job of it. Have you noticed any emerging trends in the violence that you report on? Are crimes committed along racial lines, between or within socioeconomic classes, or between distinct geographic areas? Has there been a surge in vigilateism (I'm positive that isn't a word) or citizens taking things into their own hands since the police force was so drastically cut?

David_Harris_AMA55 karma

Good question, and thanks for the kudos. It seems as though those being killed and those charged with killing are getting younger and younger. There was a homicide last year where the victim and all the suspects were not much older than 14 or 15

There certainly is more crimes on the north and east ends of the city which are the poorer areas. Black on black crime continues to be an issue, although we haven't had any race-motivated killings that I know of.

You certainly hear of more people arming themselves and shooting at robbers. Just last week, the owner at a pawn shop shot at two men who broke into his store.

prodigious_r40 karma

How long have you lived in Flint for? Has it always been such a dangerous city?

David_Harris_AMA75 karma

I was born and raised in Flint. Flint has not always been the most dangerous city, but it has been since 2010.

Taigatrommel37 karma

Do you ever consider leaving Flint for somewhere safer?

David_Harris_AMA85 karma

If I did go somewhere else safer as a cops reporter, I wouldn't have much to write about :-)

BeaumontLivingston33 karma

Hi, Mr. Harris. I live in Grand Blanc and work about a mile outside of Flint. One of the things that I find weird about the community is that people are proud to be from the most dangerous city. People even put FLINT stickers on their car with a gun for the L. What is your take on why people are so proud of this fact?

David_Harris_AMA41 karma

I've seen those stickers, too. I don't know why people are proud of the "most violent city in the nation" tag. There should be more outrage.

Empireoftime30 karma

After all that you have done, all the things that you have seen. How do you keep yourself from becoming jaded?

David_Harris_AMA38 karma

I tend not to dwell on all the murder and mayhem. Much like a cop or emergency room doctor, you can't make it if you become too emotionally involved. That said, I have felt like losing my faith in humanity from time to time.

DebianSqueez28 karma

Do you think that Flint will make a recovery population-wise, or do you see residents finding other areas to live?

David_Harris_AMA48 karma

Flint will never recover to its heyday population of 200,000-plus. But you would think the population decline would bottom out at some point. We are expected to dip under 100,000 people sometime this year.

DebianSqueez26 karma

Thanks for taking the time to answer my question, David. If I may ask a follow-up question, how do you feel the decreasing population will affect things such as basic city utilities and business?

David_Harris_AMA38 karma

I don't really know the answer to that one.

Kzoo3328 karma

Honestly, I've lived in Flint for quite some time, and while I have witnessed a bit of violence (some of which was quite bad), I cannot remember an event where I was directly involved. Most of the violence in the city is between individuals who know one another, and there is little danger to the average citizen (as long as you don't go looking for trouble in the north end at 2am). As a reporter, do you actually feel like there is an inherent danger within Flint, or that its rough areas are more dangerous than those of other towns, or are you just using the 'most dangerous' statistic as a polarizing title for the AMA?

David_Harris_AMA22 karma

I agree with you, kzoo. The majority of the homicides are between people who know each other and there are certain parts of the city that are more dangerous than others. The "most dangerous" part comes from FBI stats that are published yearly. The FBI advises against doing the rankings, but everyone does them because they draw a lot of interest. Also, there aren't any other ways that I know of that is a measure for "most dangerous" than solid crime stats. I think what draws attention to Flint is the volume of violent crimes, compared to the city's small size. In other words, Flint is a small city with big city problems.

lame_sauce926 karma

What steps could Flint take to improve? What steps is it already taking?

David_Harris_AMA39 karma

Again, just my opinion here: A strong education system is of the most importance. Too many kids are dropping out of school, and headed down the wrong path. They end up in prison or unemployable. Along the way, they have a kid or two which they aren't ready to raise or support. You get these kids to stay in school, graduate and go on to do something productive, you start to build a better foundation for the city. As for what's being done: State police and ATF coming in, the city lockup reopening, the Youth Violence Prevention initiative, and countless others the good people of Flint are doing. I feel I should say this: The vast majority of Flint residents are good people who are doing positive things. I've seen them every day. It's just the small amount of troublemakers that give this city a bad name.

angell61020 karma

Hi David, No question here, but an idea. I know it would be a huge undertaking, but what about a weekly bio of all the victims of Flint's unsolved murders. Keep them out there. If you could do one or two weekly it may bring some justice for the families that are still agonizing over who killed their loved ones. We all know that they are forgotten shortly after all the media attention dies down...BUT the loved ones never forget.

David_Harris_AMA5 karma

Good idea angell. We do some stories on unsolved homicides from time to time. Here are some stories about that topic

DatPiff9169 karma

From your reporting experience, is the crime organized in Flint? Are there local gangs or subsets of larger gangs in Flint ie MS13,Crips,ViceLords etc.

If there are subsets of larger gangs, have you seen a rise of that in recent years?

David_Harris_AMA7 karma

Most of the gangs you hear about around here are neighborhood centric: Pierson Hood, Merrill Hood, Howard Boys

north13western5 karma

Why doesn't the Flint Journal or MLive do any investigative journalism? Is it true Uptown (the largest developer in the city) owns the building that contains your offices? Does that prevent you and your colleagues from writing anything bad about them? As a former Flint resident, now living in Chicago, their deals look pretty sketchy.

David_Harris_AMA4 karma

I think we do a fair amount of investigative journalism. Here's a few examples.

A look at crime trends statewide vs. police staffing, including Flint

A series on juveniles sentenced to life in prison, with some Flint stuff

My story today on how the man accused of killing four people should not have been on the streets

The arson problem in Flint

The history of a gun that was used in a homicide

atad2much4 karma

What precautions would you suggest for someone who wanted to do a report on a particularly dangerous area. I live near Camden, NJ and there is a small shanty town that seems to flourish despite extremely poor conditions (weather/drugs/crime/mental illnesses/etc.). I think it would make a fascinating story but research would be dangerous.

David_Harris_AMA7 karma

Just be aware of your surroundings. I go into Flint's bad neighborhoods all the time, often by myself, and I have never had a problem. That said, I never go at night and I'm never far from my car where I can hop in and drive away if I feel something is not right. Hopefully, I never encounter any problems.

kundertaker2 karma

You are a strong person.. Where do you find the strength to talk about death and crime so often?

David_Harris_AMA2 karma

I feel as if I'm just doing my job, informing the public of what is happening in the city. That's kind of a lame answer, I know, but I don't really get too upset over the things I write about.