What Happens To A City When The Money Runs Out?

Flint, Michigan

Michigan governor Rick Snyder said in January that he believed there were roughly 235 cities and towns in his state that were (he didn’t use these words, but they accurately convey what he meant) functionally bankrupt. 

One of those towns, as anyone who knows Michigan knows, is Flint, Michigan.  

Flint was once called “Vehicle Town USA” because it was home to a huge Buick assembly plant, a major spark plug plant and Fisher Body.  None of those things exist anymore. “Vehicle Town USA” has become “Murder City.” 

In the last three years, Flint’s finances have collapsed to the point that the city has had to lay off two-thirds of its police force. A New York Times reporter spent an evening riding around with two of the remaining cops as they cruised “Murder City USA.”  Here’s an excerpt:

What Flint is now is one of America’s murder capitals. Last year in Flint, population 102,000, there were 66 documented murders. The murder rate here is worse than those in Newark and St. Louis and New Orleans. It’s even worse than Baghdad’s.

Cops can be a suspicious, insular lot when it comes to reporters. But Howe and the others are blunt and self-effacing. “We ain’t cops anymore,” Howe says. “We’re librarians. We take reports. We don’t fight crime.”

He guides me through the yellowing jail cells upstairs that had to be closed down recently because of lack of manpower. “If you break into someone’s house, we can’t hold you,” he says with a straight face. “If you’ve got a weapon or you’ve murdered somebody, then county will take you. I don’t see any light at the end of this tunnel. Only darkness.”

You can read the full report here.