Unable to handle violent crime, Detroit had ‘team’ investigating Shepard Fairey case

A Fairey mural mocking consumerism and power was posted on a vacant building on Gratiot. By Steve Neavling/MCM
A Fairey mural mocking consumerism and power was posted on a vacant building on Gratiot. By Steve Neavling/MCM

Update: Judge sends the case to a circuit court trial

The FBI dubbed Detroit the most dangerous city in America two years in a row, but that didn’t stop police from dispatching “a team” to investigate artwork allegedly posted on abandoned buildings by world-renowned street artist Shepard Fairey.

Fairey, 45, is in court today for a preliminary examination to determine if enough evidence exists to warrant a trial on two felony counts of malicious destruction of property.

Andre the Giant image beside a surveillance camera at the Eastern Market. Photo by Steve Neavling/MCM.
Andre the Giant image beside a surveillance camera at the Eastern Market. Photo by Steve Neavling/MCM.

During the exam, Detroit Police Sgt. Rebecca McKay said “a team” of investigators handled the case.

Despite the effort, the city’s only evidence appears to be that the posters contained “iconic” images created by Fairey. Asked whether she witnessed Fairey posting the images, Sgt. McKay responded: “With my eyes, did I see him do it? No I did not.”

Sgt. McKay said none of her colleagues witnessed Fairey posting the images either.

Detroit police also lied to the media when they said the building owners approached the city about the vandalism. Sgt. McKay said her team of investigators approached the building owners and asked them to file complaints.

A Fairey mural posted on the CPA Building on Michigan Avenue across from the Michigan Central Station.
A Fairey mural posted on the CPA Building on Michigan Avenue across from the Michigan Central Station.

The arrest is part of Mayor Mike Duggan’s crusade against street art and graffiti. The mayor’s administration also has begun fining building owners whose property was tagged with graffiti.

Police also are targeting a fundraiser for firefighters that included posters of broken fire hydrants.

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.

  • JF

    Thanks for this important article. This is an utter waste of resources and most folks who have spent any time living in the city would agree.

  • Eno Laget

    there is no instant revenue in investigation of violent crime. Fairey paid out 1.6 million in the Obama photo appropriation case. Detroit certainly seeks a payday for putting resources into making this unauthorized art case stick. Let’s call it a paste tax.

    • bebow

      The next time Detroit goes down, it will be Camden. This kind of misuse of resources is a clear indication that our leaders don’t get it. What needs to happen isn’t happening. Plans are changing, not for the better. Our leaders are flirting with disaster. The neighborhoods are roiling.

      • Eno Laget

        Amen, brother. “And this is it: The Black God Exists.” — The Pick, The Sickle and The Shovel, 1997.

  • DETROIT GINGER

    What a waste of resources.

  • Donald E. Hodge

    Yup, just one more thing to make me proud of Detroit. I am truly amazed.

  • disqus_vhLozcit3f

    This is so fucking stupid.

  • Druse

    Seems Duggan has a paint can up his ass concerning Grafitti. An art form that he cannot control.

    • banmar

      There’s graffiti and then there’s art in unusual places. Duggan’s got to learn to fix the big problems before he goes after nuisance crimes — or artists whose handiwork raises money to help fund the needs of Detroit’s firefighters or makes a blighted building instantly interesting and might even give some of the “graffitied” buildings new owners who will rehab them for future use. Newsflash to Mayor Duggan: NYC didn’t start focusing on minor annoying crimes like the squeegee guys until Jack Maple and his crew had rolled out Comstat and had already made a big dent in violent crime in all five boroughs of NYC.