Illegal scrappers destroy buildings and neighborhoods
Today the building is a shell. Scrappers have taken practically everything.
This building could have had a future. There was talk of a charter school, or perhaps a senior citizens center. Now, neighbors just want it torn down.
Trishalla Bell lives in the neighborhood. She complains that no one will want to move to the area with the building looking the way it does. She says it is not only an eyesore, but it’s wide open and children play inside the trashed school.
Detroit Public Schools put anti-vandalism coverings on the windows. Vandals stole them.
The building was fenced in. Thieves stole the fences. In fact, more than 9.2 miles of fencing has been stolen from Detroit Public Schools that are still open. Much more has been taken from closed schools.
State Representative Rashida Tlaib has watched the building be dismantled. She went with us inside the building. All the lockers are gone. She says, “I don’t know how you show up at a scrap yard with lockers and get away with selling lockers. It’s obviously stolen from a school.”
In the auditorium, all the chairs have been taken. The lighting fixtures are gone too.
“To tear the building down will cost thousand of dollars,” Rep. Tlaib says.
Mackenzie High school is being torn down right now. The price tag for that is $984,910.
There are more closed school buildings in Detroit than open ones. DPS spokesman Steve Wasko says, “There are over 100 empty schools and any property owner in the city or nearby knows well the dangers of having a vacant property.”
The school district is working with real estate experts to try to sell as many of the buildings as possible. But one they’re scrapped, that may no longer be an option.
Where possible, the district is using security cameras, lights, police patrols, even canine teams to protect the schools. Years ago, the greatest threat came from squatters.
Wasko says, “Everything changed several years back when the price of metal and the various precious metals and copper went through the roof and suddenly anything that is copper or metal is being taken.
State Rep. Tlaib has seen too many buildings like this in her district. So she introduced legislation to make it more difficult for scrappers to sell stolen goods. She says, “I think we need to be able to have no cash transactions at scrap metal yards and have people get their value of their legally scrapped material to their homes in three days.”
The bills would apply to both ferrous and nonferrous metals. There would be detailed reporting with each purchase, including the name of the employee weighing the scrap metal, the description of the materials, and a photograph of the material. Payment would be made by check and the check would be sent by mail to the home address scrapper.
The legislation would prohibit the sale or purchase of public fixtures, construction equipment and tools, materials that are clearly marked as belonging to a business, catalytic converters unless from an automotive recycler. Sale of air conditioning units, burnt copper wire, cemetery-related articles and any items that the buyer knows is stolen property would also be illegal.
The package also makes it a crime to steal scrap metal and includes penalties that increase with the value of the scrap metal stolen and the number of violations that a scrap metal thief commits.
Rep. Tlaib: “I’m saying ‘no more.’ Enough is enough. ”
But the clock is ticking. And every day more buildings are trashed, more money is wasted. More neighborhoods are lost.
If you see someone scrapping a school or public building, contact authorities.
If you support Rep Tlaib’s package of bills, let your state legislator and senator know.
If there are vacant or scrapped homes in your area, keep an eye on them. Scrappers often torch them to make copper wire in the walls easier to get.