Major cities from Seattle to Chicago are falling under a wave of violent crime.
Consumers have enjoyed the upper hand in the last year and a half, with a fistful of money, a pick of jobs, and great bargaining power,” wrote Medora Lee for USA Today this morning. “But those good times are about to end, some analysts warn.”
In an article entitled, “Closer look at looming recession,” Lee warns ominously; “Consumers and jobs market may not be as healthy as you think.”
While the April 2022 jobs report was a real chart-topper, chock full of data showing unemployment approaching pre-pandemic levels and pandemic recovery continuing apace, the economic news isn’t all good.
The Leisure and Hospitality industry is still showing the weakest growth and there may be worse news to come for that sector. Inflation is already taking a goodly bite out of working family budgets. Discretionary expenses like Netflix and subscription services have been the first thing to go; travel, leisure and hospitality spending is certainly next on the chopping block.
“Main Street business owners and the American public are convinced a recession will hit the U.S. economy this year and inflation is the primary reason, according to the latest CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey for Q2 2022,” reported CNBC yesterday.
The unpleasant change has been hard to miss. Americans are suddenly finding themselves paying more for everything from groceries to gas to rent. The cumulation of rising prices is sapping the strength from the recovery effort.
It isn’t the only factor to do so.
In major cities across the U.S. from Seattle to Washington D.C., crime is spiraling out-of-control, causing a new crisis for downtown areas already struggling to dig out from beneath the last two years of ongoing crisis.
The FBI reported an over 30% increase in murders in 2020. Other violent crimes went up by over 5% during 2020. The upward trajectory has continued in the months since. In places like Chicago, once dangerous neighborhoods have become practically unlivable; even previously safe areas like the downtown theatre district of the Loop have become dangerous.
“On Sunday night, happy patrons were seated at the James M. Nederlander Theatre in Chicago’s Loop waiting for the start of a touring production of the Broadway musical ‘Moulin Rouge’, wrote the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board on Monday. “The theatre, say some who were there, was nicely filled. But just moments before the scheduled curtain time, an announcement was made from the stage that the show had been cancelled.”
“The reason,” the Editorial Board continued grimly, “was a nearby shooting,” which occurred when, “victims of a robbery opened fire on the perpetrators.”
Two people were injured in what can only be described as a “shoot-out”, though both survived. Not every Chicago crime victim is so lucky.
Chicago reached a grim milestone in 2021; the city hadn’t seen a year with 800 homicides in over 25 years.
In cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco, the rising crime problem has created a vicious downward death-spiral for downtown areas. More crime equals less foot-traffic as ordinary people start to avoid dangerous areas; less foot-traffic equals more crime as criminals are further emboldened by the lack of witnesses and police.
Crime is chaotic on public transportation systems, too; law-abiding patrons have begun avoiding New York City’s subway system and Chicago’s CTA.
“Though we are proud to have one of the best transit systems in the country, that reputation and everything we’re doing to keep it will mean nothing if CTA customers don’t feel safe taking public transportation,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a statement.
Plenty of authorities are anxious to lay the crime rate increases at the foot of the pandemic. However, most other countries saw a reduction in crime during the pandemic.
“But even as the economy recovers and restrictions have been lifted, crime rates have remained high,” admitted Amanda Perez Pintado for USA Today on Thursday in a piece entitled, “How the crime rate is preventing some US cities from the ‘return to normal’”.
Most experts who attribute the spike to an increase in social stressors like food insecurity and homelessness are looking ahead at a potential recession nervously.
From closed businesses to a mass exodus of residents, the crime crisis besetting some major cities couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“It’s becoming ever more difficult to have this as our global headquarters, a city which has so much violence,” billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin lamented during a recent news interview in which he discussed moving his Citadel headquarters out of Chicago. “I mean Chicago is like Afghanistan, on a good day, and that’s a problem.”
In the Windy City, you now regularly see headlines like these: “Police investigating whether burglars who hit two Lake View stores later tossed cash register on Gold Coast block where governor lives.”
Reading between the lines- carefully couched to avoid conveying the insult so obviously intended in such an act- it becomes clear a gang of burglars robbed a series of stores and left the emptied-out cash registers on the front lawn of the governor’s mansion.
Though, “a police spokesman said the ‘incidents could not be specifically linked together at this time’ and added that ‘detectives are still investigating,’” it’s hard not to picture the whole thing as a scene in The Godfather.
It begs the question: Just who exactly is running things in Chicago?
“It just tells you like how deep crime runs in this city,” Griffin said. “There is nowhere where you can feel safe today walking home at 9:30 at night and you worry about your kids coming to and from school.”
“That’s no way for our city to exist,” he added, mentioning, “25 bullet shots in the glass window of the retail space,” he owns and adding that someone recently, “tried to carjack the security detail” sitting outside his house.
What is behind this slide into lawlessness and criminality exploding in cities like Chicago and Seattle?
If authorities truly are powerless to stop it, what is to become of cities and major metro areas left behind by the coming economic recovery?
Held up by crime, it may be decades before life in Chicago’s low-income neighborhoods returns to normal.
If indeed it ever does.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)