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As Detroit breaks down, scourge of arson burns out of control

As Detroit breaks down, scourge of arson burns out of control

A city in flames: inside Detroit's war on arson For eight long years, the firefighters of Highland Park, Michigan, worked out of a warehouse. There was no red-bricked facade, no lanky Dalmatian. No freshly washed engines gleaming in the sun. No second-floor fire pole to descend in the dead of night to wailing sirens. Whatever idealized vision you have of firefighting, Highland Park is not it. Instead, picture a hulking, boxy building on the edge of an industrial park about six miles north of downtown Detroit. The Highland Park fire department opened nearly a century ago, in 1917, to serve the booming city. "We do stuff kind of old-schoolish, because that’s what we have: old-school, crap equipment," says Scott Ziegler, a first-generation fireman who’s worked in Highland Park for four years. Highland Park is three square miles surrounded by the city of Detroit, and shares the litany of woes affecting the area. "We’ve pulled up to stuff we just couldn’t control." But the population peaked in the 1940s at over 50,000 people.

Understaffed Detroit Police Say Enter the City at Your Own Risk Abandon all hope ye who enter here. Here being Detroit. “Detroit is America’s most violent city, its homicide rate is the highest in the country, and yet the Detroit Police Department is grossly understaffed,” said DPOA attorney Donato Iorio. “The DPOA believes that there is a war in Detroit, but there should be a war on crime, not a war on its officers.” Over the summer, city officials reduced the police department’s budget by nearly $75 million in an attempt to attack the city’s large deficit. “Officers are leaving simply because they can’t afford to stay in Detroit and work 12-hour shifts for what they are getting paid,” said Iorio. Detroit law enforcement is among the lowest-paid big-city police forces in the nation, serving a city with the second-highest violent-crime rate in the country (just behind Flint, Michigan) according to recent FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics.

Detroit pays high price for arson onslaught Detroit — Arson is a raging epidemic in Detroit, destroying neighborhoods and lives as the city tries to emerge from bankruptcy. Even amid a historic demolition blitz, buildings burn faster than Detroit can raze them. Last year, the city had 3,839 suspicious fires and demolished 3,500 buildings, according to city records analyzed by The Detroit News. Burned homes scar neighborhoods for years: Two-thirds of those that caught fire from 2010-13 are still standing, records show. "Nothing burns like Detroit," said Lt. The Detroit News researched arson for more than three months and found that it remains a huge obstacle to renewal efforts following bankruptcy. Few neighborhoods were untouched by arson and the entire city bears its costs. "People don't realize arson is a felony. Aides to Mayor Mike Duggan, who has made fighting blight the cornerstone of his administration, declined comment on The News' findings or his strategy for reducing arson. 'Arson is like a cancer' The News found:

Data shows Detroit is arson capital Detroit — Nationwide fire data support Detroit's reputation among firehouses as the arson capital of the United States. "It's been that way for years. Every time you'd go to a seminar, you meet up with investigators nationwide and all they want to talk about is Detroit," said Jon Bozich, who retired in 2001 as the chief of the city's Arson Squad. Detroit has averaged 3,800 to 6,000 suspicious building fires annually for years. Nationwide, no city with a population of at least 300,000 has as many suspicious fires or arsons per capita, according to FBI Uniform Crime Reports and the National Fire Incident Reporting System of the U.S. And Detroit is near the top of both lists in total suspicious fires and arsons, despite its smaller population. For ranking purposes, The News defined "suspicious fires" by combining two categories of NFIRS data — fires of undetermined origin and those intentionally set. Both databases have their problems. "The numbers are wacky," he said.

Big Three Automakers Outsourcing To Mexico The Big Three automakers in the U.S. – Ford, Chrysler and GM – are under fire for outsourcing to Mexico. GM and Chrysler have been given billions in aid from the U.S. government to keep them operational during the downturn in the economy. Now, Washington is criticizing the automakers for offshoring manufacturing jobs as a sign of taking undue benefit of the North American Free Trade Agreement. There has been much controversy over outsourcing after President Obama has taken office. The American automakers have been furnished aid in the form of $80 billion amid the economic downturn that roiled financial markets and in the credit crisis. Reports cite that Mexican autoworkers typically make just ten percent of what a U.S. automaker takes home. According to analysts, NAFTA has been the vital force behind the creation of nearshoring, or outsourcing to nearby locations. Due to political pressure, auto firms in the U.S. have been hesitant to move to other markets like Mexico.

Is Detroit getting better? Some key findings Detroit Rising: One year after exiting bankruptcy, are city services in Detroit improving? How is Detroit doing one year after leaving bankruptcy? Any realistic estimation of the city's progress has to take more than finances into account. As Detroit approaches the anniversary of its exit from emergency control and bankruptcy, we look at a range of city services to see whether daily life has actually changed for the majority of Detroit's residents. Streetlights Entity: Public Lighting Authority of Detroit This new entity, using bond money, is a $185-million project to modernize Detroit’s streetlight system. Result: Residents are generally happy, but some have complained the new lights do not cover as much area as the old ones, including leaving sidewalks in the dark. Blight Entity: The Detroit Land Bank Authority Since May 2014: More than 7,000 blighted homes torn down The city now routinely demolishes 100-150 houses a week. Tax collection Entity: City of Detroit Buses Trash pickup Technology

Detroit firefighters speak out on bankruptcy By Tim Rivers and Jerry White 29 July 2013 In fire stations across the city of Detroit, discussions are being held about the impact of the city’s bankruptcy filing and initial efforts by rank-and-file firefighters to mobilize opposition to the emergency manager’s attack on pensions and essential services. Last week, scores of red T-shirted firefighters, organized in the ad hoc Public Safety Workers Action Group (PSWAG), fanned out across the city holding informational pickets and protests outside of fire stations and the Federal Bankruptcy Court. They have explained the connection between decades of layoffs, fire station closings and other budget reductions, and the increased dangers facing residents in the sprawling city of 139 square miles. “Why stay on the job and risk your life with no guarantee of a future?” Robert pointing to death notices at Engine 55 Ladder 27 “One firefighter, Dwayne Garland, passed away after being exposed to some chemicals. “It’s all about money.

Detroit and Deindustrialization | Dollars & Sense This article is from Dollars & Sense: Real World Economics, available at This article is from the September/October 2013 issue of Dollars & Sense magazine. Questions and Answers with Barry Bluestone By Barry Bluestone | September/October 2013 This July, the city of Detroit—half a century ago the jewel of U.S. industry and technology, and the unofficial capital of the U.S. labor movement—declared bankruptcy. The factors involved in the city’s bankruptcy include multiple issues covered in the pages of Dollars & Sense in recent years. We addressed some key questions about the long-term causes of Detroit’s troubles to Barry Bluestone, director of the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University and co-author, with Bennett Harrison, of the landmark book The Deindustrialization of America (1982). Detroit’s Heyday: A One-Industry Town Packard Automotive Plant, East Grand Boulevard on Detroit’s east side, 2006.

Before Detroit Can Move On, It Needs To Upgrade From Windows XP One week into her new job as Detroit’s chief information officer, Beth Niblock had to deal with a pressing issue she probably hadn’t anticipated. A hacker froze a city database containing the personal information of 1,700 current and former employees of Detroit’s fire and EMS department, and demanded a ransom for its return. The hacker, Detroit’s mayor would later disclose, wanted 2,000 bitcoins for the effort — roughly $800,000. Lucky for city officials, there was a backup database, so no data was lost. It was a notable gesture for a city facing quite an odd predicament. Not only was the city’s IT bad, it was exposed. “Those databases have been there a long time, so the standards have changed,” Niblock told the newspaper. Detroit’s bankruptcy filing in July 2013 drew attention to an eye-popping list of problems: a nearly hourlong police response time, an eviscerated tax base and about 73,000 blighted structures. No, really. By all accounts, it didn’t. It’s limited, to say the least.