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After three years in a suburban house, Nathaniel Wallace bought a loft in Detroit’s midtown, where major crime has dropped 38 percent in three years.

The 32-year-old computer contractor paid less than $200,000 for the restored three-level building with stainless-steel appliances and a rooftop view of the Comerica Park baseball stadium.

As small, safe enclaves attract residents — midtown’s population grew 33 percent in 10 years as Detroit as a whole lost 25 percent — cuts in police protection threaten to unleash more crime in outer neighborhoods that already lead the nation in violence. Spreading the core’s vitality may decide the fate of the near-bankrupt city.

Last year, Detroit’s 2,137 violent crimes per 100,000 people, including 344 homicides, led U.S. cities with populations of 300,000 or more, according to an FBI report. St. Louis was second, with 1,857 crimes per 100,000.

It’s a different tale in Detroit’s midtown, a hotspot for art and socializing. Midtown’s population grew to 14,550 from 10,900 from 2000 to 2010, according to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

The area’s 5,884 housing units in 127 buildings are 95 percent occupied, and more are being built, according to Midtown Detroit Inc., a nonprofit planning and economic development organization.

When Michigan intervened in April to fix Detroit’s finances, Republican Governor Rick Snyder said its salvation lies with attracting tax-paying residents and businesses. While security is essential, it remains an elusive vision in much of the city.

In 2011, Detroit ranked sixth in property crime among U.S. cities with 300,000 or more residents, according to FBI data – -6,144 per 100,000 people. Detroit’s 184 homicides as of July 15 compare with 189 at the same time in 2011, according to the city’s police department.

Police and neighborhood-watch groups say empty homes are havens for drug trafficking and other crimes. Detroit in 2009 had 125,015 vacant residential lots or vacant houses — about one-quarter of all residential parcels, according to Data Driven Detroit, a nonprofit regional data-analysis firm.

Read more about this investigation on Bloomberg News

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