Trespassing Citations at Former Northville Psychiatric Hospital Have More Than Doubled

Local law enforcement caution that the property is unsafe and trespassers could be fined up to $500.

Some come to the unused buildings of the former Northville Regional Psychiatric Hospital seeking a spooky thrill, others to check out the urban ruins of Detroit. Still others look to gather scrap to sell from the site.

Regardless of the reason, however, one thing is certain.

"It's trespassing," Northville Township Public Safety Director John Werth said. "And it's unsafe."

The number of trespassers caught and cited at the Seven Mile property for all of 2011 was 213. This year, from January through October, that number is already more than 500, Werth said. 

There are dozens of buildings on the property and the colorful spray paint tags left by visiting trespassers covers the walls. Broken glass is strewn about the floors, crunching beneath the feet of visitors. Some areas are so dark you couldn't see your hand in front of you even in the daylight.

To combat the lure of websites and urban lore attracting visitors, Northville Township police have stepped up their patrol and enforcement efforts, especially in October when Halloween-inspired thrill-seekers swarm the property.

"It is a challenge for us to do it, but we’re managing the challenge," Werth said. "It is dangerous to be around abandoned buildings."

Seven Mile property on the web

There are about 20 buildings on the site. The remnants of the main building, activities buildings, dorms and more are located around the 349-acre property, which is owned by the township.

Online, it takes a simple search of YouTube to see that trespassers are proud of the images they've captured of the property. There are clips of scenes from various areas, including the old bowling alley, tunnels and more.

One website, which features photos of the property's buildings, has a different purpose. DetroitUrbex.com is a site that presents images of the property as art.

According to the website, it aims "to raise awareness of the social and economic challenges the city of Detroit faces through photography."

On another page, the site's creator warns: "We show you these pictures because Northville Hospital has a rich, fascinating history as a monument to a bygone way of treating society’s illnesses, not to encourage trespassing."

Still, such websites may serve to entice more trespassers to the property, which worries local police.

"The websites do not help, the Facebook pages do not help," Werth said. "It is a challenge to (the) public safety department."

Police respond to increased trespassing with heightened security

One of the incidents that reminds Werth of just how dangerous the property is occurred more than four years ago.

A man and his friend entered one of the buildings, carrying a gun just in case there was trouble, Werth said. One of the men dropped his gun and accidentally shot himself in the leg. It had to be amputated.

"People are scared when they go there. Some people take weapons," he said. "You never know who you’re going to run into. You never know what their motive is when you’re out there."

Werth said that the worry is when people go alone and are injured.

Throughout the month of October, there is heightened security. Officials declined to go into specifics to avoid helping trespassers make it onto the property without getting caught.

Special patrols help protect the property and that's a good thing for the township, township Supervisor Chip Snider said.

"It's an attractive nuisance that is discovered by curious people," he said. 

The township is working on getting the buildings torn down as part of a large $82.6 million project.

To protect the property in the meantime, the township has discussed building a fence, but Snider said that may not eliminate the problem. Another option could be to install cameras to alert dispatch to the presence of trespassers, but that is not an immediate plan for the township.

Soon, though, he said, security will increase even further as the University of Michigan constructs its new medical building on the site. He said he hopes the increased activity will dissuade would-be trespassers from entering the property.

The penalty for trespassing is an automatic visit to the 35th District Court in Plymouth. Trespassing violations carry a maximum 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500, Werth said.

"We have a zero tolerance policy for trespassers," he said.

Jason Keomany October 24, 2012 at 04:33 PM
It's really not as dangerous as people make it, the problem is the idiots that run through there. They have better stuff to do with tax payer money than worry about trespassers seeking a thrill. I personally photograph urban decay and find the history in all of it fascinating.
Tim Wilson October 24, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Back in the 80's the Jaycee's had haunted houses at the old Training School. That showed it off for many people that would end up trespassing there. Now with the internet there is unlimited publicity for the property. The Plymouth State Home became deadly for one guy in the 90's. Its amazing to me that there has not been more people injured on the NRPH property, The internet has opened the flood gates for hundreds of idiots to go out there. John Werth has the public's safety as his concern. As long as there is one building on the property there will be trespassers. John Werth is a good guy with his hands full. Northville has had abandoned institutions thanks to the City of Detroit, Wayne County and the State of Michigan for over 40 years.
Tim Wilson October 24, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Photographing urban decay has become so passe' it might as well be in the same class as breathing. As far as history NRPH as no history of any real interest. Nothing magical or significant ever happened there.
douglas Taft December 02, 2012 at 02:59 PM
The simple fact is that this place is an easy mark for this local police dept. Urban explorers are usually white and middle class, and other trespassers are usually just scared suburban schoolkids. It turns out to be an easy source of revenue. Deploy your officers to relatively safe locations where the municipality can make some money through the imposition of fines, or deploy them to dangerous areas where the municipality will have to spend money for incarceration, processing, and court costs? The only thing this big-mouth police chief doesn't do is tell the truth about such matters.
Tim Wilson December 03, 2012 at 01:01 AM
The day some poor kids dies there everyone will be asking why the township didn't do anything to stop people from trespassing. It happened before (At the Plymouth State Home) its very likely to happen again. I hope it doesn't. Fact is the property has been vacant for nearly 10 years already. Chief Werth can only try to deter trespassing the township board needs to take permanent action. Besides where are the dangerous unsafe neighborhood in the township? I think the hospital is about it. Urban Explorers are usually not very bright and just look to do whats "cool" Keep up the good work Chief Worth.


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