Ronnie Bowlson knows a thing or two about the dangers of the abandoned Packard Plant.
He’s lived across the street from the ruins for 50 years and has heard gunshots, watched fires erupt and felt the ground shake from collapsing buildings.
But now he fears something more sinister is afoot. On Sunday night, Bowlson said two teenage girls were exploring the southwest side of the pant when a group of men attacked them and stole their belongings.
Police confirmed similar attacks over the summer, including the severe beating of two photographers.
“All these kids from the suburbs come up here thinking it’s not dangerous,” said Bowlson, 56, who, along with his pitbull, voluntarily peruses the plant for dangers to visitors. “But there are some bad people around here who will do anything for money. They don’t show no mercy.”
Police were seen patrolling the perimeter of the plant Monday, even as suburban teens threw bricks at buildings and thieves continued to load pickup trucks with scrap metal.
With more than 40 crumbling buildings spread across 35 acres, the cavernous Packard provides plenty of cover for criminals, including arsonists who have set hundreds of fires at the plant without ever getting arrested.
“You got to be ready for anything,” Bowlson said. “You can’t trust just anyone.”
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.