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Burglars, Scrapers Target Paul Robeson Academy

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A fire in May heavily damaged the building of Detroit's Paul Robeson Academy. (WWJ Photo/Bill Szumanski)

A fire in May heavily damaged the building of Detroit’s Paul Robeson Academy. (WWJ Photo/Bill Szumanski)

DETROIT (WWJ) - The Paul Robeson Academy is going from bad to worse. The Albert Kahn-designed, gothic structure on Fenkel at Linwood was heavily damaged by a fire in May and was closed as a result.

A fence was put up around the building, but Ronnie Cole, who owns a business across the street, said that hasn’t stopped the scrapers.

“Well, they’re stealing the street lights and they’re coming back and vandalizing this building here. And they’re stealing all the fencing and they’re going in there and looting the building now.”

Detroit Police records indicate multiple break-ins and burglaries at the school since it burned. Detroit Police Sergeant Eren Stevens said scrapers have taken everything from copper wire and pipes to complete boilers. It’s believed the thieves sell the metal to scrap yards.

“Last night, when I seen all the lights out, I didn’t have enough energy or I would have got back up and said something’s about to go down. I came up here, I made sure there wasn’t anyone in the back of my yard, made sure everything was chained and bolted down, and I came up here early this morning, like I always do, and I’d seen all the fencing. They even cut the poles,” Cole said.

Sgt. Stevens said there have been three break ins reported, one in June and two in July. Two people were arrested with burglary tools in-hand after a short foot chase. The cause of the fire remains undetermined.

Steve Wasko with Detroit Public Schools said to WWJ: “Our plans are to demolish the structure based on prohibitive rehab costs … (and that) parents have been notified of permanent home for the school’s programs nearby.”

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