Who's buying sex and drugs in Detroit? Suburbanites


The Detroit News tagged along for two recent undercover police operations: A drug sting (known as a “Push Off,” urban dictionary notes) and a prostitution operation (known as an OTE, or “Offer to Engage”). 

During the 2-hour OTE sting on Detroit’s eastside, six men were arrested. Five were from the suburbs. In the drug sting the findings were no better. There were six buyers in a little over an hour — all but one was from the suburbs.

According to the paper, these findings indicate a big problem. "Detroit’s underground economy mirrors the legitimate one: Both rely heavily on suburban investment. Suburbanites flock to Detroit to spend money on sporting events, dining, casinos — and attractions not touted by city boosters, like illicit sex and drugs. It has long caused headaches for residents and police," writes the Detroit News. 

While you may say, "But the Detroit News! These are just two small scale operations — you were only in one neighborhood and only there for a total of about fours hours!" the article also had data from many months of arrest records to back up the claim that Detroit's so called moral decay issue is not so much a city problem as it is a suburban issue.  

According to Assistant Police Chief Steve Dolun, between March and September 628 people were arrested or ticketed during drug or prostitution stings — of that number, less than half hailed from Detroit proper. 

Suburbanites coming into the city for a sketchy good time is predictable, even if we now have some data to back it up (come on, you know you always had suspicions about your neighbor), and of note here for the curious: The going rate offered by Johns caught up in the sting? $15 to $30. 

Let's have the News explain a bit more.

While drug dealers and prostitutes also operate in the suburbs, they’re generally more difficult to find than in some Detroit neighborhoods, where men and women hawking illegal wares often boldly flag down passing motorists.

Out-of-towners venturing into the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods and consorting with street hustlers is a recipe for trouble, Dolunt said.

“A lot of times these people from the suburbs aren’t very streetwise, and they become victims of crimes themselves,” he said. “They get robbed, beat up, sometimes killed.”

Of the city’s 298 criminal homicide victims last year, 39, or 13 percent, lived outside Detroit, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office annual report. In 2013, 14 percent of Detroit’s homicide victims lived elsewhere, and the year before that, 16 percent.

And age wise? We're also talking about kids. Here's one particularly troubling anecdote.

On the city’s eastern edge, teens from the upscale Grosse Pointes trek across the border to buy heroin and marijuana, said Charles Flanagan, the former head of the Detroit Police Narcotics Section, also the longtime head of east side Special Operations units.

“I caught one kid, and I had him tell me who else was buying dope,” said Flanagan, who retired in July. “So he brought me his high school yearbook from Grosse Pointe South and circled the pictures of about 20 students that he knew of who were either buying drugs or were in rehab.

“A lot of these kids are hooked; they steal their parents’ jewelry and pawn it, then come into Detroit to get their heroin.”

There's much more there. Do head over and read it all.

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