When we think of crime, we often think of murder, arson, robbery. But for my current work-in-progress, I found myself researching a more blue-collar type of crime: corruption, and, more to the point, corruption in development.
We all know that development follows the money. If the rich (often white) folk flock to an area, developers and others who want to cash in follow. This can spark unprecedented growth for a city or an area of the city that has not seen that level of development in a long time. This, in turn, puts undue pressure on the city’s planning/zoning/building departments. A building department can only process so many permits or zoning change requests on any given day. Developers, on the other hand, are often under financial pressure to get jobs done quickly before the market cools again.
So what are they to do?
Enter the expediter.
(Sounds like the name of a super villain, doesn’t it?)
An expediter is someone who is paid by developers to, well, expedite projects to approval. They know how to push permits through the system quickly, what paperwork is required, how to address violations, and how to strong-arm building officials to get their way. Expeditors aren’t exactly illegal in a lot of places, but nor are they ethical.
More examples of corruption when it comes to development include:
- aiding and abetting an unlicensed architect,
- doctoring photographs to get a permit approved,
- refusing to pay the fines, and
- bribing city officials.
But corruption doesn’t just lie on the developer side of things. City officials can also be swayed to push things through quicker than they might otherwise. In exchange for campaign contributions, politicians have been known to give housing vouchers or tax credits to the developers who know how to play the game. Or they might give away housing credits to developers of their choice rather than in a fair bidding process.
You have to admit that when you sit down to read a mystery, you don’t often think of crime on this level, but corruption–or the cover up thereof–can be a fantastic motive for murder, wouldn’t you say?
For more on development and the gentrification of cities, see the fantastic book How to Kill a City by Peter Moskowitz.
The book I’m currently working on is Book 2 in the Desperation series. Interested in Book 1? Sign up for my Super Secret Club and you’ll get the first book FREE!