On Tuesday, as news of the deadly school shooting at Oxford High made headlines, where a 15-year-old sophomore killed at least four fellow students, some objected to the national media’s characterization of the incident as happening near Detroit.
“Completely lazy to put Detroit in this headline since you know folks love to try to pin violence on this city,” the journalist Jemele Hill wrote on Twitter, responding to a New York Times tweet that characterized Oxford High as simply “north of Detroit.” “Detroit is 42 miles from Oxford,” added Hill, who grew up in the Motor City. Others on Twitter echoed the sentiment.
It’s true that Oxford is miles away from Detroit, and not even located in the same county. It’s also true that Oxford is part of a sprawling multi-county region commonly referred to as “metro Detroit,” though certainly the word “Detroit” didn’t need to be in each and every headline and chyron about the tragedy.
The Oxford shooter suspect’s parents would soon make sure it would, however.
On Friday, after Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald announced that suspect Ethan Crumbley’s parents would be charged for their role in the shooting, officials said that James and Jennifer Crumbley were apparently on the run. While their lawyers said their clients had simply left their media-swarmed home for their own safety, officials became concerned when they discovered the couple had withdrawn $4,000 from a Rochester Hills ATM and turned off their phones, making them untraceable. A manhunt was soon announced, enlisting the help of the U.S. Marshalls, with a $10,000 award for tips.
That search took law enforcement directly to the east side of Detroit.
Apparently, a tipster spotted the couple’s car and notified authorities, and the couple was found early Saturday morning hiding in an artist's studio at 1111 Bellevue St., inside one of the hulking industrial buildings in Detroit designed by the famed architect Albert Kahn during the city’s heyday as an automobile hub. According to reporting from The Daily Beast, the Crumbleys appear to have had a personal relationship with an artist who worked in the building, who had also lived in Oxford, explaining how the Crumbleys, and this story, ended up in Detroit.
Some theorized that the couple could have been attempting to flee across the river to Canada, but it’s more likely that the Crumbleys thought they would get away with it for the same reason why Hill and others rejected the national media lumping in Oxford and Detroit together in the first place — because of Detroit’s perception, especially to white suburbanites, as a city of lawlessness.
As the Detroit tipster showed, who was apparently keeping an eye on their neighborhood, that is certainly not the case.
If anything, the story underscores the fact that many of the people committing crimes in the city are white people from the suburbs, whether it’s buying drugs and sex, getting in drunken fist-fights at Detroit Tigers Opening Day, or dumping trash in empty lots.
So yes, Oxford is miles away from Detroit. But there are plenty of reasons that metro Detroit is considered a region, from the fact that Detroit’s water department supplies neighboring municipalities for miles, including Oxford’s, to the regional bus system that takes people to and from big-box stores in the suburbs, located there because national chains have long refused to do business in the city.
Eight Mile Road is not an impervious border. Oxford isn’t Detroit, but the region is more connected than some might think.
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