Detroit’s decline was no well-guarded secret.
Once the eighth largest city in America, with close to 1.9 million residents, Detroit’s current population of 700,000 means it is now smaller than the likes of Columbus, Ohio and Forth Worth, Texas.
The signs of mass departure can be seen everywhere; 70,000 homes in the city stand empty, cracked crumbling ruins that once housed happy families during Motor City’s heyday.
The streets are seemingly abandoned – this is, of course, a city built to house close to three times its current population.
The neglect isn’t sporadic either. Great swathes of the city stand completely derelict as those that remain move closer together for convenience and safety.
Security in the neighbourhoods they leave behind is a major issue. Although in the downtown area crime in below the US average, Detroit still has the highest per capita rate of violent crime among the largest 25 cities in America.
Detroit has been named ‘America’s Most Dangerous City’ by the FBI seven years in a row, citing a devastatingly high rate of murders, violent assaults, rapes, robberies and manslaughter.
To rub yet more salt into Detroiters wounds, the symbols of the city’s once prosperous past can be seen all over.
The city was, of course, the former automotive capital of America, given the nickname Motor City thanks to its thriving vehicle manufacturing industry.
There were once 300,000 manufacturing jobs in the city. The boom began in the years immediately after World War II, and continued until the 1960s – a decade dominated by the Detroit-based Motown Records.
The decline began shortly after however, as car factories began leaving the city en-masse, causing the population collapse and a resulting massive drop in income from a decreasing tax base. A long history of financial mismanagement by the city’s authorities only added to its economic decline.
Little was done to stem the decay over the subsequent decades, meaning that now, several decades down the line, the city is in worse shape than ever.
As Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder said last night as the city filed for bankruptcy: “The fiscal realities confronting Detroit have been ignored for too long… [This is] a problem that has been six decades in the making.”
While the exact figure of how much Detroit owes its creditors is disputed - estimates have varied from $18.5bn to as much as $20bn - one thing is for certain: the city is entering uncharted territory.
Until last night, the title of America’s largest municipal bankruptcy belonged to Jefferson County in Alabama. Its debts when it filed for bankruptcy were around $4bn.