Rollin: The Rise of the Drug Economy in Detroit

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Rollin: The Drug Economy in Detroit

Detroit was once the seed of the world's greatest economic empire - the auto-industry. Whether you came from Southern Europe, the Middle East or the American South the factories were always hiring and the pay was good. But as this empire of cars weakened and crumbled the city's economy began to revolve around a new business - illegal drug distribution.

Between 1965 and 1970 violent crime more than doubled in the United States. Why this happened has never been fully explained but the drugs, the breakdown of social control associated with the civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam were certainly key factors.

Nowhere was more out of control than Detroit, Michigan, which had suffered the deadliest riot of the 60's and had become the murder capital of the country by 1971. In the spring of 1972 the bureau of narcotics sent John Sutton to Detroit on a special assignment to infiltrate and bring down the city's largest black heroin dealers.

Agent Sutton arrived in Detroit to find the city divided. On the one hand Detroit had the most thriving black middle class in the country, mostly thanks to the auto-industry, and many people were living a good life. On the other hand it was a city were the entire police force was overrun by heroin dealers and stickup men.

Detroit had few black police officers in the 1950's so the department had a hard time infiltrating the city's burgeoning drug infrastructure. Henry Marzette was a hometown boy and Korean war veteran when he entered the Police Academy. Starting off as an undercover narcotics cop in the 1950's Marzette set arrest records. But soon started playing both sides of the fence and he was convicted of corruption in the late 50's.

After a short prison time Marzette came home determined to take over the streets. In 1970 he calls a meeting of top heroin dealers, known as the "West Side Seven", he proposes that they work together to purchase and distribute heroin without the Italian mafia who controlled a group known as the "East Side Twelve" made up of mostly white high-level dealers. The alliance falls apart when certain dealers won't bow down to Marzette kicking off the deadliest drug war in Detroit's history.

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9 Comments / User Reviews

  1. ascii

    didn't understand half of what they were saying...

  2. dmxi

    after this i need a 'shot' me-self (esp. with that picture on the right under 'recommendations'!)!

  3. shafawn

    Ok I understand it's very tuff to sell drugs in the hood... whatever. What I wanted addressed was the effect Unions had on the police and politics. Who was getting the pay offs while the jungle took over?

  4. bringmeredwine

    I watched this because for my whole life I've been fascinated by Detroit.
    This doc is unfortunately put together in a willy-nilly fashion, jumping from one era to another, back and forth and person to person Got especially confusing when I couldn't understand the lingo and read all at the same time!
    So, after the first 30 minutes, I was very naughty and skipped ahead to the last half hour.
    Here's what the doc is about (I think):
    Black Detroit youths from inner city neighborhoods saw their middle class parents lose hope and succumb to poverty after the auto manufacturing jobs went away.
    The schools were underfunded and totally inadequate. Disaffected students chose to drop out and earn a lucrative living rather than graduate, then slave their lives away at minimum wage jobs.
    Getting into the drug trade and forming gangs gave these kids substantial monetary rewards and a sense of power.
    Corrupt cops benefited from this windfall of cash.
    There is nothing left of the gangs from the heydays of the 70's.
    It's now the end of the dream.

  5. Eric Lawson

    This Doc was full of great song clips .It really took all of my focus to follow this film. Alot of back and forth up and down . Basically it goes all over the place .Not a lot of intellectual. Conversations ! Peace !!

  6. Jason

    The narrator sounds like George Bush Jr.

  7. Bwin51

    I thought it was interesting that part of the reason the auto industry died was because of drug usage on the factory floor. This is where the defective cars originated and was the beginning of Detroit's manufacturing slide. I know personally, I refused to buy American once the reputation dropped. I started buying Japanese cars and have never gone back.

  8. Truthbetold

    Great documentary, only corn-ball white people don't understand it.

  9. bryan

    im about to watch this. lets see how good this is! This is where I live!

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