A midnight blue Chevy rolls slowly down a snow-covered street, an emergency strobe light on its roof and a sign on its side that promises this is “official business.” At each house, business, even vacant lot, workers in the car pause to decide whether someone lives there and what shape the place is in before snapping a photo and beaming it to “mission control” miles away.
All over Detroit, scores of these workers — on some days as many as 75 three-person teams — have been wending their way through the streets since December, cataloging on computer tablets one of this bankrupt city’s most devastating ailments: its tens of thousands of abandoned and dilapidated buildings.
Everyone here has long known that Detroit is plagued by emptying neighborhoods, but this expedited, top-to-bottom analysis of all 380,217 parcels of land in the city, which is to be finished in a matter of weeks, will quantify the state of blight here with a level of detail rare for an American city.
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