Tourist: Armed robbery attempt at Packard Plant shrugged off by police

Robert Wallace, of Australia. Photos by Steve Neavling
Robert Wallace, of Australia. Photos by Steve Neavling

An Australian photographer got a quick, bitter dose of Detroit and its police force.

While taking photos outside of the abandoned Packard Plant on July 25, Robert Wallace was chased by a gunman who wanted his equipment. Wallace dove into the bed of his friend’s pickup truck as the assailant pointed the gun at him, demanding he give up the camera and other gear.

“I was just waiting for the bullet to pierce my skin,” he told me.

Robert Wallace in the Cass Corridor.
Robert Wallace in the Cass Corridor.

The pickup sped off, and the gunman never pulled the trigger.

But what happened next really irked Wallace. Police declined to file a police report, saying a crime was never committed, he said.

“A guy brandishing a pistol within inches of us isn’t a crime?” Wallace asked.

Police told us Friday that they are investigating why a report wasn’t taken.

Packard Plant
Packard Plant

It’s a common complaint that Detroit police fail to take official reports from crime victims, a practice that results in artificially low crime rates. This year, Chief James Craig is reporting sizable drops in all crimes.

“I can’t understand why the police wouldn’t want people to know where crimes are being committed,” Wallace said.

Last year,  two tourists were carjacked in the same area and robbed of their money, camera and cell phones.

On Christmas eve, urban explorers found a dead body in the Packard Plant.

Police have largely ignored the Packard Plant area, despite persistent illegal activity and several murders in the area.

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.

  • EDG

    Police report isn’t going to get your camera back and you should have insurance if it’s any decent brand. Not worth your life, aussie.

  • mon_dieu_ishmael

    Nothing new here. When most of my stuff was stolen may years ago in Detroit, it took me hours of sitting in the old 13 precinct to get anyone just to give me the paperwork to fill out.

  • Blake D

    The blame should be on the lack of taxpayers and the lack of police. Overworked and underpaid police, no snitching policy leads to a higher crime rate and a lax police force and you eventually have to triage the reports. Three black teens with hoodies is extremely common. Unless you have a vehicle, a street name, dishtigushing marks…your gonna waste a lot of time investigating an attempted robbery. Sadly it’s one of many per day. Educate yourself before you go into an area and having an experienced guide doesn’t make you bulletproof. Use common sense instead of whining to the media to place blame. Make a difference instead of pointing fingers.

    • bebow

      The DPD is corrupt and incompetent. You are parroting one of the DPD’s excuses for unacceptable performance. If you were living in Third World Detroit, you would think long and hard before “snitching,” too. You just might be “snitching” to the dopeman’s fellas on the force, and, in any case, criminals arrested today will be back out on the streets tomorrow, where there is usually no police response. Even when the police do respond in unselected areas, they come to deny service. So, maybe it’s better they don’t waste gas coming unless dead body removal service is required. The police and the criminals are working hand-in-hand. You think you’re going to “make a difference” with wishful thinking through that bad scene? The man is telling an important truth. Truth-telling is good, especially when police lie. Brandishing isn’t a crime in the unselected neighborhoods? Really? Narcotics-trafficking and prostitution aren’t apparently crimes, either. Nothing is a crime when someone(s) is getting a cut. FYI: The individuals running through the neighborhoods brandishing illegal weapons are dopescrews, but they don’t strictly confine themselves to that one particular activity.

      • Blake D

        Lame ass excuse, Dpd is corrupt is BS, there’s ways to give tips to solve serious crimes (most people don’t know what true snitching is) This city is nothing but an excuse. Due something productive or shut up. If you have complaints and excuses your part of the problem not the solution.

        • bebow

          Yes, let’s not air complaints about the ongoing corruption and incompetence. We should all “due” something else in the face of this problem. Blake said so. It isn’t your place to tell others to “shut up.” “Your” the problem here. Fortunately, the FBI doesn’t see things your way. Do you know better than the FBI, too?

  • Trexinmichigan

    I can’t see much that the police would be able to do but shuffle some more paper. Not like the guy was going to get caught. Frankly if you’re in that area with pricy equipment, don’t expect hugs and kisses. However, when there is talk of removing federal oversight from the DPD, now is not is the time. Seems DPD still has a ways to go.

  • adrian platts

    When I used to live on the near east side, when we heard shooting late at night, I’d sometimes turn on the DPD radio internet stream to see if I could figure out what was going on and where. Frequently the dispatcher would call out a long list of locations around 2 or 3 am where shootings/violence had been reported, followed by a note that these had been called in an hour or more earlier. Some time later the officers assigned would report back with a long list of “[location 1] no problem found, [location 2] no problem found … etc”.

    I always wondered if these were included in the crime stats. I guess not?

    • MomentaryLapse

      I used to listen in on my radio scanner back in the 1990’s and it was always interesting

  • Salvatore Tranchida

    Detroit is a shit hole, has been for a long time. Coleman Young had a lot to do with it’s demise among other things. I can say this as I was born and raised!

  • Matthew Kaufman

    Don’t photograph ruin porn. (And yes, the police should’ve done a report). I reiterate, don’t propagate stereotypes through photographing ruin porn.

    • bebow

      Propagate stereotypes? Most of the city, where most of the residents are trying to live, looks like a bomb struck. Everyone needs to keep seeing this mess until effective action removes it. The recent blight removal initiative appears half-hearted, contrary to public promises. Vacant, stripped, tax delinquent properties are not being targeted, as they should, to avoid another wave of blight cropping up in the near future. This inadequate effort ensures that after the money is spent, the blight problem still won’t be solved outside of downtown and Midtown, and there will continue to be plenty of ruin porn opportunities for anyone interested.

    • MomentaryLapse

      Stereotype? Are you out of your f’ing mind? It’s right there to see…And drive through any of those neighborhoods (if you dare, since I suspect that you’re one of those suburbanite hipster fags who believes the hype) and report back to me.

  • falseprophet

    Tell me again about this Detroit comeback. Wait until this Vegemite eater gets back to kangaroo-ville and writes a scathing review of Detroit for all of Australia to read. Better yet maybe his story will be in the new Delta airlines travel magazine lmao! “Ah Yes, Detroit-Style. Very Nice.”

    • Matthew Kaufman

      Don’t be an asshole. This guy could’ve gone to south Chicago or Queens and had this happen too. It’s his own fault he was in a bad area for no good reason. There’s no connection between a comeback and this crime

      • falseprophet

        Bad area for no good reason? That is exactly why many people stay away from Detroit, its mostly all bad. Also I don’t believe that there is a Detroit comeback, just because people say something does not make it true. Politicians, businessmen and Hollywood actors are great at that.

        • Guest

          You are right, there is no comeback. It’s a bunch of smoke and mirrors. People with short term or selective memories that act as if the “come back” narrative isn’t pumped out each decade since the 70s.

        • Matthew Kaufman

          Well, sir, I lived in downtown for a year and worked in Midtown for 2 and during that short time things were making an obvious recovery and since I’ve been gone, there has been far more action. So, to what my own eyes tell me, yes, there is a “comeback.” Now if you want to debate the future of neighborhoods, that, obviously, is a different story. However, just like the original growth of the city sprung up down Woodward, Jefferson and Grand River, so too, will the rebirth. Add in the reinvestment along Livernois and certain neighborhoods and you can close the gap in areas that should once again thrive. It is literally impossible to fix every area of the city with the budget allotment and the years of neglect and abandonment. However, taking a logical and long term approach would suggest that through concentration in the positive pockets, you can recreate the city. However, perception of the issues of the city take on a life of their own with naysayers like you or people continuing to take pictures of the dead Detroit such as this clown. Instead, you should focus your energy on promoting the positives to those outside of the city and supporting recent college graduates and others to take opportunities here or begin businesses in the region.

          • MomentaryLapse

            Yeah, but it’s the hood rats in the neighborhood who tried to rob this guy. Yeah get all the businesses that you want to open up in those regions, but the ‘hoods are still going to be the same. Same gangs, same drug operations, same bullsh*t

          • Matthew Kaufman

            You’re not racist whatsoever are you?

          • bebow

            …said the pot to the kettle.

          • Blake D

            Your positive attitude is cute….just wait until your shit is broken into a few times and you can’t afford insurance.

          • Matthew Kaufman

            My shit has been broken into twice with a couple inconsequential things stolen and I still have this attitude. I understand it’s part of living in a big city and I parked in areas I shouldn’t have. However, The worst thing that’s ever happened to me in Detroit is I got jumped by a dumbass suburbanite who thought I was his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend. Kind of ironic that a polo wearing kid from Royal Oak provided the only violent crime

  • OneCanOnlyHope

    Let’s get really honest here folks; if you hang out at the ‘Packard Plant’ you should expect trouble. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the potential for danger at the facility; if you dare enter then it’s at your own peril. This compares to walking into the lion exhibit at the Detroit Zoo and when the lion attacks you; you hire a lawyer to sue the zoo. Frankly the Detroit Police shouldn’t have to protect the idiots that go near that place.

    • EDG

      Right, it’s private property.

  • Visual Ronin

    Not to defend the DPD, but if they were investigate every “man-with-a-gun” complaint that got called it, they would have no time to raid legal marijuana dispensaries or sleep in their patrol cars. But let’s take the case of when the famous war photographer was robbed of his gear here in Detroit last year. If you are going to be in a foreign place or in unfamiliar territory you need to be better prepared and more aware of your surroundings. Had this particular individual been smart, he would have hired a local guide such as John G, Ed S or myself to show him around.

    • Guest

      I’m the photographer in question. I did have a local guide with me. I dove into the flatbed of his pick-up truck to get away when he saw the youths walking towards me, wearing hoodies on a hot day.

    • Robert Wallace

      I’m the photographer in question and, yes, i did have a local friend with me. Not looking for an argument. I know lots of Detroiters and I spend as much time as possible here in Detroit. But thanks for offering your services. My driver friend, a well-known Detroiter and a published-author on Detroit who wishes to remain anonymous, performed admirably to get us away safely. There were three youths in hoodies after us – one had a gun. Not sure about the others. It was not a lone assailant.

      • MomentaryLapse

        I occasionally drive through that area on my way to I-75 in the morning on my way to work. Yeah it is NOT a good area to be wandering around in with expensive camera gear.

      • Visual Ronin

        I believe i may know the “published-author on Detroit who wishes to remain anonymous” and if it is who I think it is, then you were in good hands and this may have been a fluke. And if not, then buyer-beware. I am sorry you had such a wonderful fright here in the city. Shit like that happens but honestly it is so rare. It has happened to me only once and I was able to talk my way out of it. Not only that, but the “thug” turned out to be quite a good tour guide himself.

    • MomentaryLapse

      Or you? LMAO!!!! Yeah you a badazz! not….

      • Visual Ronin

        Having provided logistics for 8 film crews & 11 documentary crews as well as providing over 50 guided “ruin porn” tours qualifies me as a proven local guide.

        It is apparent what your “lapse” is in.

  • Muhammad Mojaradi

    Im tired of out of towners

    • green_velvet

      Ok, “Muhammad”

      • rhoneyman

        ouch!

    • Robert Wallace

      … then leave!

  • bebow

    What’s worse? The criminals or the DPD? It’s hard to decide. If the city fails to handle both, it will be right back to insolvency in record time. This wasn’t an isolated incident. The DPD is corrupt and incompetent.