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Security Patrols Planned After Suspected Arsons At Detroit's Heidelberg Project

DETROIT (WWJ) - Supporters of Detroit's Heidelberg Project plan to start neighborhood patrols in the wake of several apparent cases of arson.

The call for more security came after a fire Tuesday completely ravaged the "House of Soul" on Elba Street. Hundreds of vinyl records covered the exterior of the building, but after the fire, only three were visible.

The fire was the fifth one to hit the block-long stretch of artwork near Mack and Mount Elliott on the city's east side.

In May, the Obstruction of Justice House was heavily damaged by fire, leaving behind just a pile of rubble. Then, in early October, fire consumed what remained of the OJ House. Two other small fires were also reported earlier in October, which caused smoke damage to the Penny House and the Numbers House.

Arson is suspected in all of the fires at the project. However, no arrests have been made.

A statement from the Heidelberg Project said "arson investigators have reported that they are backlogged and unfortunately cannot investigate the fires since no bodily injury or death was caused as a result of the fires."

Jenenne Whitfield, executive director of the Heidelberg Project, said they're grateful neighboring residents haven't been affected by the fires, but they're "deeply concerned for their safety and welfare."

"This being the case, we are working on three concrete measures: we have enlisted a car to patrol the project, we are working on our own improved lighting of the area, and we hope to strategically place security cameras throughout the project," Whitfield said in a statement.

Backers of artist Tyree Guyton, who started the Heidelberg Project in 1986, pledged to help fundraising efforts for the security cameras and improved lighting in the area. Whitfield said the group will do whatever it takes to preserve the project.

"When I stop and reflect on what 2013 has brought with these series of fires, I am convinced that we are on to something very powerful. If this were not the case, negativity would not rear its ugly head," she said. "However, we were not stopped by bulldozers and we will not be stopped by acts of arson. Instead we will become smarter, stronger and even greater."

The Heidelberg Project is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike, and has also been featured in numerous Hollywood films and TV shows. Guyton has described the project as an open-air art environment where discarded objects are used to create a two-block area full of color, symbolism and intrigue.

before and after fire heidelbeg
This image shows the Heidelberg Project's House of Soul before (top) and after (bottom) a suspected arson fire. (Credit: The Heidelberg Project/Facebook)
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