Vandals Target Old School
What was once one of Detroit’s most beautiful schools will be coming down in a matter of months.
In the meantime, it’s another symbol of blight in the city. The former Paul Robeson/Malcolm X Academy is also a target of scrappers and vandals.
Scrappers– In broad daylight—load a van with materials.
Camera shy, yes, but boldly they go about their business as the dismantling of the vacant and fire damaged Paul Robeson Academy continues.
In May of 2011, fire ripped through the upper floor and roof of the 200-thousand square foot building. It was originally home to the Saint Francis Home for Orphan Boys–and dates back to the early 1900s.
Students were moved to a nearby building to finish out the school year. According to Detroit Public Schools, rebuilding would have cost the deficit-plagued district $10 million.
So it sat—awaiting its fate.
“Like any landlord, small or large in the city of Detroit, a vacant structure is a constant headache, both for the owner in our case, and certainly for neighborhood residents, businesses and others,” said Steve Wasko of the Detroit Public Schools.
It’s especially true when those building aren’t secured to keep scrappers and vandals out. The gates were wide open on three separate visits we made this week—and each time—we saw or heard scrappers at work.
Months earlier–after the arrest of three people for breaking into the building–Emergency Manager Roy Roberts said, “I think historically people have looked at us as a soft touch. Unoccupied buildings and occupied buildings. We’re not going to be a soft touch anymore.”
It has not stopped the vandals.
“We do our best to keep those secure. It’s not something we can always be 100 percent successful at, clearly,” Wasko said.
The windows? They’re mostly gone.
Undoubtedly—the copper too—and other metals.
A 7 Action News viewer contacted us about the renewed illegal activity.
Shortly after my interview with DPS spokesman Steve Wasko outside the relocated Paul Robeson Academy—we went back to the old school.
The gates were again…open.
Our camera was rolling as DPS police stopped a van leaving the property. The two men inside were arrested.
A small victory.
“We’ve had over 100 arrests in our vacant buildings, overnights, stealing copper, stealing boiler plates, all those things,” Wasko said.
DPS tells Detroit 2020 there have been 22 arrests at the Robeson school location since the fire.
This likely won’t be the last arrest here but it’s not going to be a problem for much longer. Proposals have gone out for the demolition of this building—and it’s due to be down by the end of October.