You'll Get Shot If You Break Into This Detroit House

Illustration for article titled You'll Get Shot If You Break Into This Detroit House

You're probably reading that headline and thinking something like "but won't you get shot in Detroit anyway?" but to at least minimize your chances, don't visit this particular house.


Detroit has a huge empty house problem — roughly a third of the city's homes are vacant or abandoned — but the story that's not often told is the lengths some neighbors will go to protect the homes that still remain.

Say you live on a somewhat stable block and one of the neighbors loses a home to foreclosure. In any other city without the misfortune of crumbling under the weight of rampant crime, the home would go through the proper channels and wind up on the market in a month or two.

But because there are so many foreclosures in Detroit, that process takes a little longer. And unlike other cities, a foreclosed house in Detroit has dead giveaways: After the house is cleaned out (no curtains or anything are left behind), a notice from 36th District Court is usually left in the front window, and the water department will spray paint a big, blue "W/O" (water off) somewhere across the front of the house.

Both the notice and the spray paint might as well read "Please enter and take all my copper wiring and pipes" because that's what happens. Danny Brown explains this much better than I could.

The home instantly loses about 20 grand in value, and it's not like it was going to be that pricey in the first place with the real estate market crash and all. Potential buyers are turned off by a once-promising fixer-upper now stripped down to four walls and a roof; maybe it'll get bought, maybe it won't. More often than not, the house sits, vacant and prone to squatters.

Someone on one Detroit street wasn't going to stand for that and decided to board up the house and spray paint their own message on the garage: "Don't let me catch you! I will shoot you!"


(And because there are cat eyes spray painted on the door, our local news station uses Hall & Oates' "Private Eyes" in this super-serious news report. Perhaps "Somebody's Watching Me" by Berry Gordy's son would've been too cliche.)

This kinda sucks for me because I grew up in a home literally three blocks away from this house. (There's a little discussion of my old neighborhood in the Jalopnik comments here.) I know the area well and to watch its decline is heartbreaking.


But I really can't blame whoever did this, because squatting and/or stripping is a huge issue that unfortunately can't always be dealt with through the proper authorities. Michigan, like other states, has a weird outdated law that gives rights to squatters if they can get past certain time thresholds, and you can forget about Detroit Police responding in a timely manner to a call of someone stealing pipes — or anything for that matter.

This wouldn't be the first blatant homemade sign to get some attention; locals know about it, but one neighborhood was so fed up with crackheads they warned visitors about said crackheads with a big sign on Eight Mile. I don't know how well that worked out, honestly.


Mr. Sinister

Might want to check Michigan's laws about shooting people who break into your home first......

Here in Maryland, you go to jail, unless you can make a case that your life was in danger.