Moral Low Ground

Economy

DTE Energy Removes Most of Highland Park, Michigan’s Street Lights over Unpaid Electric Bill

Most of the street lights in Highland Park, Michigan have been removed, leaving most of the city in the dark, after authorities accumulated millions of dollars in unpaid electric bills.

According to the Detroit News, the city of 11,776 people, which is surrounded on all sides by Detroit, is now without 1,400 street lights after DTE Energy removed them as part of a settlement over $4 million in unpaid electric bills that have piled up over the last several years. DTE has replaced 200 of the removed lights, but most of the city will remain in the dark.

This has raised concerns about public safety in this crime-ridden area. Just after the lights were removed, three schools were broken into at night. They weren’t the only victims.

“After they took the street lights from in front of my business, someone climbed onto my roof and stole an air conditioning unit,” Bobby Hargrove, who owns Hargrove Machinery Sales, told the Detroit News. He says he contacted local police. But instead of getting help he claims that an officer tried to extort protection money from him. “He contacted me about a week after my air conditioner was stolen and told me he’d make sure my place didn’t get broken into– if I paid him $650 every two weeks. That’s like paying protection to the Mafia.”

Highland Park mayor Hubert Yopp said he is investigating Hargrove’s claim. Still, that won’t bring the lights back. “I feel like I’m being punished,” Hargrove told the Detroit News. “I’ve always paid my bills on time, but they took the street light anyway.”

Mayor Yopp told the News that crime hasn’t risen since the lights were removed, insisting that “most of our burglaries are taking place during the daylight hours.” Either Yopp is lying or Highland Park’s burglars are among the dumbest around.

DTE Energy says they “did everything [they] could to try to help the city come to a level of service they could manage.” By removing 1,400 street lights, Highland Park has reduced its monthly utility bill from $62,000 to $15,000, a level which is within the city’s budgetary limits. But in doing so, much of the city will remain dark, and that’s an invitation for criminals to wreak havoc on this already crime-ridden city.

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