Urban explorer discovers unsecured personal files inside abandoned Murphy Academy in Detroit

Files contained address, birthdates, social security numbers

Urban explorer discovers unsecured personal files inside closed school (WDIV)

DETROIT – An urban explorer discovered unsecured files containing personal information inside the permanently closed Murphy Academy in Detroit.

Murphy Academy once was home to around 150 students in pre-k through 8th grade. The charter school is located on Fenkell Avenue and closed in 2018.

The explorer asked for Local 4 not to reveal his true identity so he will be referred to as “Josh.” Josh took his concerns to the Local 4 Defenders.

“What originally drew me to the building is just that it’s another building that is open and explorable and I came across the files,” Josh said. “In terms of the building they did a good job in the beginning but scrappers are going to get in and that is who typically gets in first. Scrappers and people who wish to do no good.”

Josh found files that included information about students and their parents. The information included addresses, social security numbers and birth certificates. The files were scattered on the floor of the school office.

“The problem is when you look at some of those documents that were scattered around that room. Those documents have some of the most sensitive personally identifiable information on people,” Scott Bailey, a forensic expert, said. “The birth certificate not only has the information from the person whose birth certificate it is, but it also has the parents’ information on it.”

That type of information is what thieves can use to open up credit cards or commit other forms of fraud. The information could also be sold on the dark web, according to Bailey.

“We have laws to protect that information. So the fact that it was left behind is very concerning and the fact that it was unsecured and just thrown around the room,” Bailey said.

Detroit Public Schools Community District emailed the charter school in Sept. 2018, sharing photographs of the records they took from Murphy Academy. Detroit schools believed they collected everything.

The other question left to answer is: How could the school be broken into? It’s the responsibility of the district’s police to monitor vacant buildings.

The district said it is completing a 20-year facility plan and the future of the building will be determined in January.

The district also said if there are documents discovered that need to be routed to the appropriate designation then it will be done.

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About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.