muckraker report

9 ways scrappers are destroying Detroit area

Packard collapse_6023

After three long years, lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder finally approved a law that will make it more difficult for scrap metal thieves to exchange their stolen goods for money.

Under the bill, signed into law Thursday, scrapyards are required to take photos of scrappers and their metal. Anyone who brings in air conditioning units, catalytic converters and copper wire worth more than $25 must have a check sent to them and cannot be paid in cash.

So how destructive are scrappers? In Detroit, they steal manhole covers, gut historic buildings, schools and churches and rip out light poles.

1. Schools

Dozens of vacant schools have been gutted by scrap metal thieves. For a few thousand dollars, scrappers can destroy a school in days, costing Detroit Public Schools and other districts millions of dollars. Some of the schools recently gutted were Southwestern High School, Jackson Intermediate, Parker Elementary-Middle School and Hutchins Intermediate.

A scrapper removes metal rails from a school gym.

A scrapper removes metal rails from a school gym.

Parker before

Parker Elementary-Middle School

Parker Elementary after scrapping.

Parker Elementary after scrapping.

Former Highland Park High School

Former Highland Park High School

 

2. Manhole covers

In the past two years, thousands of sewer and manhole covers have been stolen, creating hazards for unsuspecting pedestrians, motorists and bicyclists. The cast iron lids, which weigh between 50 and 240 pounds, fetch scrappers between $10 and $25 at local scrap yards,

The city can't afford to replace most manhole covers.

The city can’t afford to replace most manhole covers.

A Detroiter fell into this open sewer hole in April 2013.

A Detroiter fell into this open sewer hole in April 2013.

Manhole stolen on Gratiot.

Manhole stolen on Gratiot.

 

3. Century-old graves

Thieves stole mausoleum doors, gates, stained glass windows, marble and other material at Woodmere Cemetery last year.

The copper doors and stained glass window were stolen from the mausoleum of Oscar Rosenberger, the owner of the San Telmo Cigar Company.

The copper doors and stained glass window were stolen from the mausoleum of Oscar Rosenberger, the owner of the San Telmo Cigar Company.

Mausoleum of Henry and Gertrude Wineman, which was robbed of its ornate door and stained glass window. The interior was damaged.

Mausoleum of Henry and Gertrude Wineman, which was robbed of its ornate door and stained glass window. The interior was damaged.

Marble and doors were stolen from this mausoleum.

Marble and doors were stolen from this mausoleum.

4. Churches

Some of Detroit’s historic, most beautiful churches have been hit hard by scrappers.

Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church and its organ pipes on Woodward were heavily scrapped.

Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church and its organ pipes on Woodward were heavily scrapped.

St. Agnes Church with copper steeple.

St. Agnes Church with copper steeple.

St. Agnes Church without steeple

 

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  • Lane

    From what I have observed on the east side, scrapping is just a way to pay the bills. Father’s take their sons out with a big truck, they scrap an abandoned home, in order to cover rent. It sounds unethical, but over in these areas there are families who maybe share one neighbor on the block. Much of the money must come from odd jobs, scrapping, low paying jobs, and drug sales. When you live in a system that doesn’t support you, you learn to thrive from the few resources around. Now maybe if the city boarded up their structures better and provided alternative resources, this issue would be solved. But you don’t close a school, and complain that it’s deteriorating and losing value. Spend a few bucks on a security guard or plywood, and save those ‘millions in damage’ that result from neglect.

  • Stephan Palazzolo

    To meet the growing demands for Detroit city service amidst a decline in tax revenue, the city needed to fill the gap, and it did so by increasing income and property tax rates, as well as by reducing the city workforce. Detroit introduced an income tax in 1962; voters authorized tax increases in 1969 and again in 1982. In the 1990s, Detroit added taxes from casino gambling to its revenue stream, and in the first decade of the 2000s, the city reduced its workforce by about half. The cuts in municipal employment threatened Detroit’s precarious black middle class. While city jobs were seldom lucrative, they were stable, offering good health benefits and modest pensions and medical insurance for retirees. Public employment in Detroit (and around the country) was a lifeline for black professionals, clerical workers (especially women), and also blue-collar workers. As Detroit deindustralized, one of the city’s few bright lights was the availability of government black employment, as well as jobs in institutions that relied heavily on government funding and contracts (such as universities, social service contractors, and hospitals). At the beginning of 2013, about 40,000 black workers in Detroit were employed in the public sector. The city’s top employers included two hospitals: Wayne State University; city, state, and federal governments; and the Detroit Public Schools. But each of these came under siege as the result of austerity politics. State and federal budget cuts led to a decline in public employment, in Detroit and nationwide. The municipal bankruptcy hastened the process.

  • Richard Bone

    Can you make the photos any fucking smaller?

  • bringbackobjectivity

    What I’d like to know is how are these guys getting away with it? Is it a case of “I don’t know nutthin”? Someone has had to see this going on. Oops. I forgot. This is Detroit and it’s being destroyed from the inside out.

  • blkmn4evr

    By the time the law passed it had been watered down so much, it will do little to deter scrappers. It is another case of this governor and the Republicans showing they don’t want Detroit to succeed. This law would have cost the state $0. But they put the interest of the scrap dealers over the interest of the citizens of Detroit. It is a shameful display of being bought and paid for by business and the media should have called him out on it.

    • Dust Buster

      wow those republicans again… tryin to keep a brother down. also, no law cost “$0″ and lastly, what grade would you give all the proud democrats, both black and white that have run detroit and wayne county for almost 50 years? be honest now and don’t let “feelings” cloud the truthful answer because detroit and its leaders have done a fine job screwing the pooch royally.

      • blkmn4evr

        You fail to address my point that the law was watered down for no good reason other than to protect the scrap dealers and their profits. You can’t generalize and give all Democrats for the last 50 years a failing grade. Many obviously get an F. A few get as high as a B+. But all of the Republicans get an F, because they failed to even come up with a vision for Detroit should be run, let alone put together a credible plan, a platform, run for office, win, and attempt to implement their plan and govern Detroit. However, they get an A+ because they are great at sitting on the sidelines and watching as the city declined and festered. They get an A for talking about how dirty Detroit is, while they illegally dump their trash on vacant lots in the city. They get an A for doing their level best to disinvest from Detroit – pulling the jobs and resources out of the city. They get an A for talking about how the city is mismanaged while they profit from the contracts the city gives to suburban companies that take the money, but hire few Detroiters or invest little or none of that money back into the city. They get an A for lining up to get those Detroit Public School Bond Billions to build new schools the city didn’t need. They get an A for allowing the biggest best city in this great state decline, fester and die. Democrats get blame, but just like the crowd that watched Steven Utash get beat without raising a finger, or worse, joining in, Republicans are guilty as sin.

  • Bruce Channell

    The top pic on #2 is on Brush just north of Louisiana.The building is an old jewish school.I grew up not too far from there.There were 2 family flats along that stretch from Nevada to Louisiana.Sad..

  • tourist100

    the owners of the scrap yards have been making a killing for decades off of illegal scrapping they have successfully fought every attempt at stopping this.. how about outing them and their families.and the nice life for them this has financed for decades…their community seems to have no problem with their behavior that’s polictically incorrect though ayy?

  • Gunnut2600

    You miss some of the biggest problems with scrappers Steve. Rehabbing and even demolishing properties is not exactly a big income business. When I used to live in the states, I spent about five years in Baltimore. On the side, I used to run a crew that did property revamps.

    Unless you are running a massive company, where you can purchase properties by the block, its kind of tough. You got to gauge the area just right to make a profit (which is always much thinner than is depicted on cable TV shows). Too close to a good area, you will never sell it for a profit. To close to a bad area, you place will never make a decent return. If the place is totally gutted, its usually not worth the risk. Even if you are going to do the whole gut yourself, you need material that you can recycle to help offset the cost of the labor.

    The other HUGE problem that people tend to ignore is the massive about of pollution and contamination these cats spread. Especially in older housing stock, you got pollution mitigation you have to consider for lead paint and asbestos, which is why you always see water being sprayed at total demos. You want to keep that stuff out of the air. And you need to properly dispose of the waste.

    Again…that mitigation costs money so you need the recyclables to help offset the cost. No demo company just chucks everything into a landfill because it doesn’t make financial sense nor is it legal generally.

    Even more difficult is that the local community starts accepting this crap. So even if you rehab a place, you constantly have to keep is secured 24/7. No one respects anyone’s property to the point that its not worth ever bothering to try and save a neighborhood.

  • OneCanOnlyHope

    These losers need to be locked up period…. How in the h… can the city make things better when you have these scum bags coming along and destroying everything that is empty. These losers have family and friends that should be turning them in; it’s their city they are destroying. I’ve never seen such an irresponsible race of people in my life!!!

  • Billy Blake

    I believe the real criminals at the top of this is China. Stop the trade with Communist China. What is not talked about is where this scarp metal ends up.

    • Richard Bone

      source?

  • Shatner

    No fingerprinting? Usually under the guise of quelling meth these laws typically just walk into the books. Seems unusual it took sooooo long for Michigan and the D to make a law and implement it. Seems like a very simple crime to stop if there is no buyers for thieves. And who accepts manhole covers?!

  • nitrodrip

    Watered down law. They should have put more bite in it to serve as a deterrent. These people are destroying neighborhoods. As soon as someone moves from a house they are in it destroying its value. Put them in jail for 3 years. The problem is economics so jobs need to be created.

    • bebow

      Many of the criminals destroying the neighborhoods are scrapping to finance multiple daily trips to the local drug/prostitution house and party store. It’s an unending street parade. When the metal theft funds dry up, they’re apt to start attacking and invading. Be prepared for that possibility.

      • muckraker_steve

        Very good point, Bebow. I’ve interviewed a lot of scrappers, and many of them survive from the $50 they make a day scrapping. Some of them are drug addicts and need a way to finance their addiction. Once this revenue stream is cut off, they will look for other ways to get money, and it might not be pretty. It’s really a double-edged sword.

        • Sky J Logan

          What will stop scrapper is for people to turn off their idiot boxes and sit on their porch or take a walk around their neighborhood and kept a look out for any and all illicit activity and report them to the police, lighting company, or the water department

        • Dust Buster

          so hopefully law abiding citizens are ready and loaded for the time that these scrappers run out of their revenue stream and decide to attack. do we shoot them or give them a copy of the want ads?

        • SnowStormsinDetroit

          You feel that way bc of how you were raised. Your FEAR of crime in the city of Detroit is not the same as the REALITY of crime here.

          If you just stop to think about how much dope an addict can smoke. The amount is endless. Do you think they find enough metal EVERY DAMN DAY to support their habits? Do you really? You just said 50 dollars a day supports an ADDICTION… That right there shows you need to chill on this topic.

          Do you think that scrap metal is actually sufficiently supporting a CRACK FIENDS ADDICTION? Listen… Scrappers are non violent offenders.. This is why they scrap to begin with. It’s much much harder to find metal than it is to snatch a purse. I could go on but I’ll end it here.
          That’s a dumb azzz point and just the shallow perspective of those living in “Fear of a Black Planet” so to speak.

          • bebow

            Snow, let’s test your theory. Insert yourself between any active drug addict and his/her supply.

          • SnowStormsinDetroit

            Characterizing a scrapper with a 50 dollar a day habit as crack headed arch fiend is FOOLISHNESS.

            You have to understand.. I REALLY LIVE HERE. I’m not pretending. And there are very few times in week, day or month that the REAL citizens are not dealing with addicts that have NO MONEY FOR DRUGS.

            If addicts with no money resorted to strong violence like your fantasizing… Do you have any idea what levels of violence you’d actually be seeing in Detroit? DO YOU EVEN HAVE A CLUE? All day every day there are broke dope fiends in Detroit. Right this very second 10′s of THOUSANDS have no money for drugs. Where is this pandemonium now?

            Enough with perpetuating lies and myths. Scrappers are non violent offenders.. If they were violent they’d be snatching purses instead of scrapping bc that’s MUCH EASIER than trolling day and night for metal. Do you have any clue how fast 50 dollar rocks are blown? You think 50 bucks is the difference between order and caos? REALLY?…. No seriously REALLY?… 50 bux? Stop frontin . or at least stop frontin in my direction .. Bc I destroy myths with fact and commonsense

          • bebow

            Are you suggesting I’m a suburbanite posing as a Detroit resident?

          • SnowStormsinDetroit

            I’m not suggesting anything.. most of your posts suggests it for you.

            Regardless, you have nothing to prove to me.. Let your rebut to my earlier post speak for itself.

            The written word, as well as, the spoken word has an “accent” Bebow.

            I know a REAL Detroiters accent.. I know a REAL Detroiters voice… So I’ll be waiting patiently to hear yours as you shed light on how crack addicts become violent offenders when they run out of money.

          • bebow

            Your use of “accent” is an interesting choice of euphemism. (I know Detroit residents aren’t supposed to use big words like that one unless they rent in downtown or Midtown, so please forgive my “accent.”) Debating my point with you would be fruitless. It’s clear you have already settled everything to your complete satisfaction. I will give you this much: For the better part of two decades, I worked with drug addicts all over this city. Don’t embarrass yourself by assuming anything more than you have already.

          • SnowStormsinDetroit

            Exactly.

          • bebow

            Exactly?

          • Dust Buster

            i agree with some of your points but to pretend dope fiends are all little lambs that do no harm is dilly. you said you have them in your family so you know the manipulating, lying, stealing, loans never paid back etc. etc.

            now on to violence. depending on what type of dope you speak of but weed doesn’t make you violent but many violent people smoke weed. all of the 5 guys that robbed, carjacked assaulted and de-pants pastor winans were doing guess what? smoking weed at a gas station when he pulled in.

            i bet 3/4 of the lowlife bums that beat steven utash were on some form of dope. many doper are lazy and dont work, or they are unreliable. now the cost of all the scrapping and things they steal. that is a crime. i have had to pay hundreds of dollars several time to replace copper in building that these clowns rip off.

            you seem to be a wee bit sensitive and in a way defending certain criminals in detroit. it isnt like they are picking up weeds and garbage, they are stealing and wrecking things and when they do it in an area it encourages more of it then the area deteriorates. im sure you are aware of the “broken window syndrome”

          • SnowStormsinDetroit

            I agree 100% COMPLETELY with your point.

            And if I’m sounding as if all dope fiends are lambs, it’s only to remove them from the narrative of being “one hit away from causing pandemonium”. That’s simply not even remotely close to the truth.

            Not defending scrappers in the slightest. They’ve cost me 10′s of thousands of dollars. One example is a decorative iron fence I put around a 12 unit building I’d just purchased. The fence cost 8k to install. Returned to the building THE NEXT DAY… It was gone. The ENTIRE FENCE! Lolol… My god. wasn’t even 24 hours.. So trust me.. I GET IT.

            But I also get who the crack heads are. And as you say- plenty people are doped up. Agreed 100% those boys were probably high on weed, also kinda think Utash was most likely drunk if not drinking…or on scripts, however my comments were leveled at the fiction Bebow was spewing while writing his “Detroit lays in ruin” porn.
            I appreciate your comments and hope my seemingly naive position has been clarified.

          • bebow

            Snow, I believe you’ve had a bit more than the “fair share of drugs” you mentioned doing on Deadline Detroit this morning. You’re babbling. I’m done.

          • SnowStormsinDetroit

            Exactly.

      • queenie1

        And a lot of them are literally surviving on what they scrap -