Thief causes power outage, traffic problems, headaches; city struggles with lighting

A traffic light at the corner of Woodward and Canfield was among many that were blacked out because of a thief.

A lone thief triggered a power outage in Detroit that darkened dozens of traffic lights, lofts and office buildings and parts of Wayne State University this weekend, the Motor City Muckraker has found.

The theft occurred at a power station at the beleaguered Detroit Lighting Department, police said, provoking the third major city power outage in about a year.

Traffic lights on busy intersections at Woodward and Cass shut off for several miles, from Warren to downtown, Friday evening, causing near crashes with cars and pedestrians as some cars zipped through the darkened lights on a night with heavy Tigers traffic.

At lofts in Midtown, frustrated residents prepared for yet another power outage, some packing up their belongings and heading out of town. Others waited for the outage to end, rejoicing when electricity finally resumed Sunday morning.

The outage underscores the vulnerability of the city’s antiquated lighting department, which costs taxpayers tens of millions of dollars even though it can’t keep on streetlights or afford basic repairs.

Mayor Dave Bing’s office didn’t respond to questions about the outage.

At the 55 W. Canfield Lofts, on the corner of Woodward, residents were locked out because the front and side doors, operated with electricity, wouldn’t open. Their cars were locked behind an electric fence. Some were trapped outside after 2 a.m. because management, Your Peace of Mind in Howell, never responded to the emergency.

“It can be really frustrating living in Detroit,” one residents said.


Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.