After lining the guests on their knees before a “prisoner processing table” and searching them, the officers asked for everyone’s car keys. Then the raid team seized every vehicle it could find, even venturing to the driveway of a young man’s friend nearly a mile away to retrieve his car. Forty-four cars were taken to government-contracted lots.
Most of those detained had to pay more than a thousand dollars for the return of their cars; if payment wasn’t made promptly, the car would become city property. The proceeds were divided among the offices of the prosecutors, police, and towing companies. After the A.C.L.U. filed a suit against the city, a district court ruled that the raid was unconstitutional, and noted that it reflected “a widespread practice” by the police in the area. (The city is appealing the ruling.)
Detroit Police Department officials have said that raids like the one on the Contemporary Art Institute are aimed at improving “quality of life.” The raids certainly help address the department’s substantial budgetary shortfalls. Last year, Detroit, which has since filed for bankruptcy, cut the annual police budget by nearly a fifth. Today, “blind pig” raids around the city routinely result in the confiscation of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of cars.