But unlike Pompei and other cities crushed by Nature’s wrath or God’s wrath, Detroit’s destruction is completely man-made and thus can be reversed. The city that midwifed the Model T and the Cadillac, Bob Seger and Eminem, Ted Nugent and the Insane Clown Posse, still has tremendous assets in terms of infrastructure, location, and people.
Like Buffalo, Cleveland, St. Louis, and other dead cities scattered across the map of the industrial Midwest like so many cigarette burns, Detroit can stage its own comeback by reducing crime and picking up garbage; by freeing kids, parents, and property values from an abysmal school system; and getting the government out of everything that isn’t essential.
In other words, Detroit’s leaders only need to do what they should have been doing for the past 50 years. And the city’s dwindling supply of residents needs to keep them honest this time.
“Nothing – nothing works in this city,” said Sheila Cockrel, who spent 16 years serving on Detroit City Council. Since stepping down in 2009, she has been teaching at Wayne State University. “It takes 58 minutes for a police car to come if they accept your call,” she added. “The only calls they accept are if there’s a gun and they believe you’re not lying when you say it. In my middle-income neighbourhood, we pay a private security service … Once I was in my house at three o’clock in the afternoon and three young men tried to break in. The first call I made? Threat Management.”
Ms Cockrel is referring to Threat Management Centre, a private security company which operates from a black building near the Detroit River waterfront. It is among the many private firms that some residents have resorted to as the city struggles to provide adequate services. Founded in the mid-1990s by Dale Brown, known to his staff as “Commander Brown”, Threat Management’s client roster has 1,000 homes and 500 businesses.
Mr Brown’s men and women are kitted out in military-style trousers, black T-shirts, protective vests and badges. The “Commander”, who began by training locals to protect themselves before founding his company, drives around in a black Hummer 4×4. Threat Management Centre’s personnel are known as “Vipers”, an acronym, Mr Brown told The Independent, for “Violence Intervention Protective Emergency Response System”. Some, but not all, are armed, often at clients’ request, although the entire force will shift to non-lethal weaponry by the end of this year. Mr Brown said that when his team respond to calls from clients such as Ms Cockrel, they are under instructions to call the police, even though residents often don’t bother. “It is an organisation that is driven by the mission, not the money. If there was no money, would [we] still do this? Yes, there would just be less of us, less often,” he said, sitting in an office decorated with framed testimonials and photos of Vipers in action.
‘Nothing works here’: Reality on the streets of a broken Motor City (private police)
By the time Detroit declared bankruptcy, Americans were so inured to the throbbing dirge of Motown’s Greatest Hits — 40 percent of its streetlamps don’t work; 210 of its 317 public parks have been permanently closed; it takes an hour for police to respond to a 9-1-1 call; only a third of its ambulances are driveable; one-third of the city has been abandoned; the local realtor offers houses on sale for a buck and still finds no takers; etc., etc. — Americans were so inured that the formal confirmation of a great city’s downfall was greeted with little more than a fatalistic shrug.
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To achieve this level of devastation, you usually have to be invaded by a foreign power.
Unfortunately, it seems that the future Aldous Huxley predicted in 1932, in Brave New World, is arriving early. Mockery, truculence, and minimalist living are best, then enjoy the decline. However, we do need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT), learn what Members of Congress pay in taxes, and prosecute politicians and staff and their “family and friends” who profit from insider trading. Oh, and pay “public servants” what they are worth.