Thieves in backhoe continue tearing apart Packard minutes after building erupts in flames

The cavernous ruins of the Packard plant are truly lawless.

As I write this, thieves in a backhoe are stealing large metal beams even as a fire burns in the plant, a few buildings away. Teenagers walking through the ruins tossed wood chunks into the fire. And the fire department, which I called about an hour ago, sent two trucks that turned around and returned to the station after realizing the blaze was at the Packard, an abandoned complex of more than 40 industrial buildings on the city’s east side.

Scrapping at the Packard Plant is the focus of our four-month investigation running this week. Check out our firstsecond and third installments of this ongoing series.

I was at the Packard this evening monitoring an increasingly brazen scrapping operation that now includes high-tech equipment and a large backhoe. That’s when someone set fire to a garage door.

Three young men emerged from the smokey building and insisted they weren’t responsible. They told me they saw an arsonist run through the building.

Whatever the case, the fire is slowly spreading while thieves tear apart the ruins.

Does anyone care?

Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Got tips or suggestions? Contact Steve at

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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.