Detroit Tries to Get a Clear Picture of Its Blight

MONICA DAVEY New York Times News Service Published Feb 18, 2014 at 05:31PM
Tamera Smith, a surveyor for the city of Detroit, leans out of the car to take a picture of a parcel, part of an effort to document every vacant lot and abandoned structure in Detroit, Feb. 3, 2014. The resulting database is expected to bring the most complete picture yet of the Detroit's woes, even as city leaders grapple with the question of how to run a city built for 1.8 million people that now holds only 700,000. (Fabrizio Costantini / The New York Times)
Leonard Patterson, a surveyor for the city of Detroit, takes a picture of a parcel as part of an effort to document every vacant lot and abandoned structure in Detroit, Feb. 3, 2014. (Fabrizio Costantini / The New York Times)
A surveyor views a vacant parcel of land as he catalogs abandoned properties in Detroit, Feb. 3, 2014. Hundreds of workers are mapping the city's dilapidated buildings in a project that aims to bring a clear picture of Detroit's blight neighborhoods, analyzing which homes can be saved and where demolition may be the only cure. (Fabrizio Costantini / The New York Times)
Abandoned houses line Hazelridge Street in the east side of Detroit, Feb. 3, 2014. Hundreds of workers are mapping the city's dilapidated buildings in a project that aims to bring a clear picture of Detroit's blight neighborhoods, analyzing which homes can be saved and where demolition may be the only cure. (Fabrizio Costantini / The New York Times)
A board keeps track of individual surveyors' progress in the effort to count every vacant parcel and abandoned structure in the city of Detroit, Feb. 3, 2014. (Fabrizio Costantini / The New York Times)
Technicians catalogue photos taken as part of an effort to count every vacant parcel and abandoned structure in the city of Detroit, Feb. 3, 2014. (Fabrizio Costantini / The New York Times)
The gutted interior of an abandoned house, one of thousands in Detroit, Feb. 3, 2014. (Fabrizio Costantini / The New York Times)