Oh Criminals, Where Art Thou?

June 18, 2013

drug dealerI would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed with my Detroit experience so far. In the past 8 months, I have no gunshot wounds, stabbing scars, or even a stolen vehicle to show for it. I don’t even have a lower credit score!

When I told everyone I was moving here, I got a wave of backlash and pleas to reconsider. It reminded me of the time I traveled to the Middle East and, as I was boarding my flight, received a hundred text messages and calls saying, “If you go, you are going to DIE!”

Well, my time in the Middle East was just as disappointing and uneventful as my time here in Motown. Where have all the criminals gone? With a nice bout of insomnia, I used to walk to the YMCA at 5 a.m. to work out in total darkness. My Dad freaked out when I told him.

What my father can’t understand is that, unless you live right downtown, and once the sun sets, the streets of Detroit are deserted. No cars. No homeless people. Even the pimps seem to take the night off. I could streak down Woodward (my apologies for the imagery) and I wouldn’t encounter a single soul. How can Detroit be dangerous if no one is around to mug you?

Luckily my prayers were answered and I had my first exciting experience with the underground marketplace.

The other day, I was craving a coffee and on my way back from 1515 Broadway after grabbing a cup when I encountered a nice-looking gentleman on the street corner. I was staring at the pavement as I walked, wrapped up in a daydream about being the first Jewish President when …

“Yo boy! You want some Brown Suga?!” I looked up to see that he was sporting a nice pair of XXL Carhart pants that stooped to his knees, a T-shirt that had a picture of a diamond-encrusted Cadillac, and a coat that was so tattered it leaned more toward a cape as it billowed in the wind.

He smiled at me with a gleaming pair of yellow teeth, dotted with the occasional missing link.

“I have sweetener in here already,” I replied, motioning to my coffee.

“No! Brown Suga! I give you a kick-ass deal! New customers (pronounced custohmoes) get discount.”

heroin needle

He pulled out something from under his coat and all I could think was: Yes! Finally, I have an excuse to use my new throwing knives. But, to my disappointment, he pulled out a tiny bag with clumps of what indeed did look like brown sugar instead of a gun.

Cherry-Pop: My first offer of heroin.

I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Sorry man, unless you take my Delta Skymiles Card, I have nothing to offer you.”

It’s not that I crave danger, per se, it’s that I am a thrill junkie and want some cool stories to tell my children in the future of when their father was a vigilante living in a notoriously perilous city. Detroit’s last famous criminal can’t go down as committing something so white collar as extortion like our wonderful ex-mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick.

It would seem that the egos and cockiness of all the new suburbanites who have migrated to downtown to work for Quicken Loans has left no room for any respectable criminals in this city. I will continue to walk the streets of Detroit, unhindered by thugs and drug dealers, until my personal heroin dealer, Jamal Dontavius (that’s the name he gave me), modernizes and learns to take plastic over cash.

Jason Singer is a privileged suburbanite who has not known many financial struggles in his young life. He is also an editorial intern at the Metro Times. Send him feedback to letters@metrotimes.com.

  • Boston Edison

    Of course downtown is relatively insulated. Try the other 140+ square miles of the city.

  • Detroit_Purl

    So where does this person actually live in Detroit? I’m going to guess some fairly gentrified areas. We’re living in a place where the murder and crime rate are deplorable and we have this white guy boosting about how he’s avoided it, without telling us where he lives? The thrill of getting offered heroin is not exactly thrilling for the 90% of Detroiters who live with it in their neighborhoods. Totally ridiculous, callous, and cruel. I’m so tried of being disappointed in The Metro Times this may just convince me to finally quit reading.

  • JD

    That’s like going to Times Square and saying NYC has no crime. Take a walk down Cass or just about any other street in Detroit that isn’t next to a Hard Rock Cafe.

  • Sungard

    I work for a University in the City, and had my car stolen in the middle of the day. Of course, my employer is near the neighborhoods, and not downtown.

  • B Weiss

    It’s pretty insensitive to say you are “disappointed” that you’ve yet to be physically injured or threatened with death or great bodily harm since you’ve been living in Detroit. I’m sure that you must be incredibly envious of all the sheer joy, excitement, and happiness the family members of all the innocent victims of the deplorable, senseless violence are no doubt experiencing every day, for the rest of their lives. I understand that this piss-poor attempt at satire was supposed to highlight the city in a more positive light, but please don’t make light of staring down the business end of a snub nosed .38 until you’ve done it.

  • Carrie

    Great writer. Lousy story.

  • Angela Marson

    I don’t know buddy, journalist, I mean moving downtown Detroit and living there and just being happy to not have been hit is one thing,,,,
    but to go out into an as widely read paper/ and on line site The Metro Times, and
    state all of this like that….
    Like what are you, like asking for it? And I hope that man’s lawyer goes to court and
    takes your “first jewish dreaming president’s ass” and takes it for 1.2 million dollars,
    for printing his name, or the name he gave you . WOW. very weird dude. very weird dude.

  • Ryanguard

    If you really want a thrill try going outside the boundary that is downtown Detroit!Go past the Lodge,Fisher or Chrysler 375 Freeway and see if something that will really give you a thrill happens!Try going through some of the older projects for example!!!

  • Peter

    Fucktard…wow…lame story. Take a stroll down cass @ 5am…or shit e mail me and ill give you a good ass kicking and take your iphone …hipster fuck

  • Philomene


  • Metro Joe

    I do live downtown, and I haven’t been mugged or shot at either, but I’ve been panhandled to the point I feel like asking THEM if they have any money THEY can spare, and I’ve been yelled at and made fun of to the point I thought about doing the attacking. I realize you’re young, but I would be very careful what you wish for. Also, it’s privileged.

  • LiamMcChene

    I almost think you made this story up. I’m a recovering heroin addict and have never heard heroin be referred to as “brown suga” in Detroit. They usually call it boy, H, or blow. And heroin is rarely brown; it’s usually white or gray. Also, I have never had a heroin dealer tell me his first name, let alone his last. They go by aliases, such as T, Black, C-Rock. Maybe this so-called dealer was, in fact, trying to sell you some brown sugar. By the way, did you really have to add how he pronounced customers? I find that quite offensive. I thought journalists stopped transcribing African-American dialect in the ’30s.

  • frankthemurph

    Wow, talk about backfiring. From the mockery of Ebonics to the apparently made-up heroin story to the ignorance that 90 percent of the city is a war zone quite unlike the privileged bubble this intern lives in, this is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen printed in MT. What is going on there? How did this run? I almost feel bad for this kid, because someone should have pulled him aside and explained why this piece is so awful.

  • Brandon

    Jason, you are an obnoxious, oblivious ass. Do you even realize (I’m guessing not) how disrespectful this “article” is? Give it some time my friend, you’ll get what you want for sure. My girlfriend was robbed at gun point, I’ve had friends raped, people I know kidnapped and robbed, cars stolen, people knifed and people I know shot and killed. You’re a fucking idiot. Move back where you came from. You are unfortunately the worst of the worst of the “New Detroit.”

    - Brandon. Former MT employee.

  • SeveralBoogie

    Another case of an ignorant, uninformed, intellectually impotent white guy confusing poorly executed faux-snark with edginess. This is classless dross.

  • Sailor Ripley

    I understand the intention of this article was to be satirical and emphasize the idea that “wow, Detroit is not as bad as everyone says it is” but yikes…you failed on every level. That heroin story is completely false. I highly doubt that you walk to the YMCA at 5 A.M. but even if you do, that would be one of the safest times to be out…even “criminals” sleep. Try walking around at night at 2-3 AM, thats where you’ll run into some “thugs” who are hoping to find a clueless dummy such as yourself. You’re their favorite kind of prey – weak and blissfully ignorant. As many comments have already stated, your analysis and interpretation of Detroit is offensive to the countless number of people and families that are affected by some sort of crime everyday. I have lived here for awhile. My windows have been busted out numerous amounts of times, my roommate had his car stolen at gunpoint, I’ve had friends mugged and beaten very badly, just a month ago I had a car full of young dudes slam into me, get out and point a gun directly at my windshield…I could go on. The point is – this shit happens in Detroit and you don’t know a single thing about it. I actually agree with the main “intention” of this article – Yeah, Detroit is getting better in my personal opinion. More people seem to be moving here, certain areas are incredibly safe and I’m not going to argue against that. It’s just that nobody wants to hear that from some “privileged suburbanite” who has lived here for 8 months. You’re not an expert and you have no authority to speak about the subject. B Weiss said it perfectly in an earlier comment – “please don’t make light of staring down the business end of a snub nosed .38 until you’ve done it.”

    P.S. If you actually are a “thrill junkie” that craves danger, I’m sure there are a lot of people that would be willing to show you some fucked up shit.

    P.S.S. Metro Times – are you kidding? This article is so bad it’s ridiculous. I would have been embarrassed to run this if it was my magazine.

  • Ms. Chocolate

    If Detroit was as bad as most out-of-towners describe it (everyone collects welfare, is a crook, is uneducated, is on drugs, and a host of other “things); there would honestly be no one living here.

    What is most missing in Detroit is a strong sense of pride. That pride is still there in many. It can be found in how they live their lives, tend to their property, vote issues – not names,fight against to powers in control, and carry on from day to day. I’m surprise by what people see as Detroit, they fail to see in their own city.