5 daunting challenges that may surprise Detroit’s new emergency manager

When Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s new emergency financial manager, takes the helm later this month, he’ll see a city unlike any in the country. The problems in Detroit are so unique and vast to shock even the most hardened newcomers. Here’s five alarming realities in Detroit.


1. Rampant arsons

Detroit is in the middle of a fire crisis. The city averages 30 fires a day, a vast majority of which are intentionally set. Despite a spike in arsons, Mayor Bing’s administration has closed fire stations, reduced the number of arson investigators and allowed rigs to fall in disrepair.


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2. Abandonment

By most accounts, Detroit has between 70,000 and 85,000 vacant structures. Some are enormous, like the Packard Plant or Fisher Body Plant 21, but most are houses. In some neighborhoods, entire blocks are abandoned. Mayors for three decades have failed to make a significant progress in demolishing homes.


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3. Civil disobedience

Some EM opponents have pledged civil disobedience to protest against what they consider an anti-democratic takeover by a Republican governor. Some have plans to create a human barrier to prevent Orr from entering city hall.


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4. Infrastructure is falling apart

Stop signs, street lights and trees often collapse and remain unmoved for months because the city can’t afford enough crews to remove them. It’s not unusual for traffic lights at busy intersections to be out for weeks or for garbage to be blocking streets.



5. Murders on the rise

Although Detroit is rapidly shedding its population, murders are on the rise. Last year, 386 people were murdered, a 12% increase over 2011. The murder rate is now higher than it was nearly 40 years ago when the city was known as the Murder Capital. Since the police department makes up a large share of the city’s budget, it likely will have to take more hits.


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.