In the twentieth century, the journal of my Irish ancestor, Detective Robert Shorts, was found during an Estate sale. He immigrated from Ireland in the early 1850’s as a teenager and spent the later part of his life as Detroit’s Detective and, later, Police Chief. The following are his words. October 24, 1872, Detroit. It was a dark time. The city had been safe since the 1830’s, so safe that women could walk about without their husbands or go to work without an escort. Now. Well, now things were dark. I found myself standing alongside the latest victim, pretty, well-dressed, not a prostitute.
A lady of means, murdered in broad daylight. I wondered what the world was coming to. Back in Ireland, this never would have happened to her. Things were different there. The main difference being that in Ireland, you knew where the bad neighborhoods were, and unless you were there for reasons unmentionable, you avoided them like the plague—for that’s what it would get you, and that would be the best of things. Things had changed so much if you didn’t know the new buildings in town you could get easily lost and wind up in a bad spot.
Which is probably what happened to the lady, I considered. I saw nothing that would have placed her in this dark alley that used to be a small, slightly urban park. My hand rested on my pistol as the city’s finest surrounded me to take pictures of the scene and lay the tape that would seal this woman’s fate in history as one of the first victims of organized crime. December 26, 1880, Detroit. I was named Police Chief today, called in to work to have the torch handed down to me as the last Police Chief had been murdered by vindictive members of the mob.
As of yet, we have apprehended no one in the cursed plague of murders that have been a result of their organized crime since I began as Detective on the force in the early 1870’s. As the holiday passed me without celebration, I began to wonder why I ever came to this country. I came alone, without parents to support me, and with only my wits to get me to this country of freedom and inspiration. America. Land of the free, brave, and dangerous. I don’t know what most immigrants were thinking or where we got such ideas.
But, in trading crime for commerce, it is true that I make more in wages in one month today than I ever made in more than two years of factory work back in Ireland. Yet, in looking out my window, I considered what there was to feel inspired about when more than six slaughterhouses surrounded the precinct. I had to endure the rancid smell of rotting meat day in and day out while I worked my cases. The mayor has promised change in the area of expansion, and a business district, which would place the markets and businesses on a different block, but that ideal seems a long way off.
The papers said today that the city has seen extensive growth, moving the population from two thousand to more than one hundred sixteen thousand in the past fifty years (Schneider, 3). That’s more than one hundred thousand people who have moved within the city lines in the past fifty years. It’s no wonder the city is floundering in crime and un-planned expansion. From what I’ve seen, this dramatic increase has done more for the volume of crime and murder than it has for the success or development of the city, but there is hope of a revitalization from the industrial revolution sweeping the nation, even reaching a dark place like Detroit.