A building in Detroit is abandoned, and within days thieves steal everything of value – copper plumbing, wiring, fixtures and pipes. Walls are torn up; water gushes from broken pipes; windows are smashed and the frames stolen.
So it seemed incredibly irresponsible of the Detroit Fire Department to fail to secure one of its temporarily closed fire stations on the city’s west side – after break-ins at the Engine 49 building were reported more than a month ago.
It wasn’t intentional, Fire Commissioner Don Austin told Motor City Muckraker, which discovered the building was broken into, ransacked and flooded after thieves stole copper plumbing less than three months after it was temporarily shut down.
“A miscommunication led to the property not being better secured, but that facility and similarly closed facilities will be boarded now and in the future,” Austin said. “It’s a shame the facility was vandalized. The city of Detroit owns these buildings and when someone damages them, they are, essentially, stealing directly from our citizens. Mayor Bing and I both believe and know public safety is critical to our citizens and to the health of our city.”
To be fair, the city doesn’t have the luxury of protecting every building. State-mandated cuts have forced Mayor Dave Bing to reduce the budgets of the police and fire departments, which can’t afford adequate equipment, decent wages or sufficient firefighters.
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.