Youngstown, Battling for Turnaround, Continues to be Plagued by Crime

Hot off being named the national leader in manufacturing job growth, two senseless crimes are causing the city of Youngstown to temper its exuberance.

Tales From the Rust Belt offers this analysis:

The recent murders of Realtor Vivian Martin on the East Side and elderly residents Thomas Repchic and Angela Figmonari on the South Side near St. Dominic’s church are especially hard on a city that seemed to be focusing on the positives. Earlier this year we were able to celebrate the long list of jobs coming to the area including a third shift at GM Lordstown and the V&M Steel expansion. This month a Brookings Institute report has Youngstown leading the nation in manufacturing job growth. This good news is overshadowed by the senseless violence of 18 murders committed this year.

Real estate agent Vivian Martin was killed last week in a robbery in Youngstown.

Real estate agent Vivian Martin was killed last week in a robbery in Youngstown.

It’s bad enough the city is subjected to a high homicide rate due to drug related crimes. Now residents are forced to endure the murders of elderly church members and successful business owners. Vivian Martin should have been an inspiration. From the follow up article in the Vindicator it is clear she was a driven, educated black woman who owned a successful business in a city that needs such role models. That she would be targeted because her profession leaves her vulnerable when showing properties shows the cowardly nature of the men who attacked her. The assaults on Angela Figmonari and Thomas Repchic and his wife were equally cowardly, occurring after services at St. Dom’s.

The criminals in the Martin and Figmonari cases are young, uneducated and apparently faced a life without prospects of success beyond crime. Even as the Mahoning Valley sees a good turn in a grim economy we see the same lazy-gonna-blame-everyone-else-for-my-failure elements we always have making it harder for those who are struggling to become educated or those who are trying to work honestly.

Youngstown can succeed but it has to want it. People need to make sure their kids are learning in school in order to set up a good foundation for moving on to YSU or one of the trade schools in the area. We can no longer accept crime and criminals as the status quo. Otherwise businesses will look at the city and locate near it but not in it. Daylight murders of good people kill more than the victims

Before Youngstown advocates come after me, I like this post because it demonstrates the kind of two steps forward, one step back, dynamic that is taking place in Youngstown and other Rust Belt cities.

It’s an uphill battle. And Youngstown’s increase in manufacturing jobs will improve things, but it will take while before new jobs produce the type of community benefits they promise. In the meantime, there’s a certain portion of the population that hasn’t yet benefited from the remarkable progress that has been made and their suffering is going to continuing to haunt the region for the foreseeable future. That’s not to excuse these heinous crimes. I think that’s just the reality in some of the nation’s poorest cities during an historic recession.

Anyway, those who are working for progress shouldn’t be discouraged even though their task is so daunting. Situations like this one highlight the serious consequences of past inaction.



Filed under Crime, Economic Development, Headline, Real Estate, U.S. Auto Industry

5 responses to “Youngstown, Battling for Turnaround, Continues to be Plagued by Crime

  1. Sarah Hartley

    Sad. I think such crimes have always been with us and probrably always will, unfortunately.

  2. Sean Posey

    Youngstown’s problems are far more complicated than simply jobs loss. That’s something you seldom hear or read in the news.

    Youngstown’s south and east side have been in dire straits for some decades now. Areas of these two neighborhoods were among the first to experience massive concentrations of poverty. Long before the steel mills closed urban renewal, white flight, redlining, and overt discrimination shaped the creation of Youngstown’s ghettos. Knowing this it becomes no surprise that African American communities have been hit the hardest through job loss and through localized discrimination designed to keep them in distressed inner city neighborhoods.

    Youngstown’s African American community in the past few decades have seen the highest infant mortality rates in Ohio, the worst schools system in Ohio, one of the largest racial health gaps in the nation, and the largest racial gap in intimate partner homicide in the entire country.

    Still, when we see stories depicting homicides the city the subtext is always missing. There’s never any discussion of the historical developments I’ve outlined. Instead the articles are accompanied by grotesque comments by readers condemning African Americans as “savages” and calling for the demolishing of their neighborhoods.

    This is far from a Youngstown problem. Almost any city in the Rust Belt you can think of has a similar history–Gary, Indiana, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, etc. The ultimate lesson is that inner city ghettos and inner city crime waves have been designed by both job loss and manufacturing decline, and by deliberate policies at the local level. Until the Rust belt confronts the sordid history of race and inequality our urban centers will have bleak futures indeed.

  3. San Francisco Examiner: Ohio attorney general to hold summit to address violence in area where 2 church members killed…36053.html

  4. Thanks, Phil. It sounds like these crimes have really inspired the community to address the problem of crime. Also, I heard your MVOC event last weekend was a big success. Congrats!!

  5. Megan

    Thanks for posting this. I completely agree with the points made- mostly in regards to age of the suspects and the recognition of how those kids got to where they are now.
    I especially agree with Sean’s points of no discussion being offered up in regards to just how the environment children such as those murderers grew up in. I chose to move back into this very environment. Now I can not lie, my side of the street is very different than the other- literary. A house welcomes you towards Youngstown, spray painted with “REDRUM”, with the name of the said author, a local gang. But I also watch young, innocent children play in those very streets- playing tag-riding bikes, doing what kids do.
    I actually know my neighbors, getting to chat every night when they walk their dogs, rake up leaves in their yards,handing out candy on halloween or around our annual yard sale. So I guess my point here is, I still see and feel hope. But i worry, those who once knew the great city and still remain in it are leaving us either due to age or the suburbs.
    And as the younger generations are raised in these streets, they may find the desperate means the road to their success and not see any alternative. (our educational system does not really offer much)
    I don’t understand why the city doesn’t invite leaders who have succeeded in the battle against crime?
    In Newark, New Jersey I saw the signs that said “stop the murdering, Newark,” through out the city. We must not only have a leader who honestly cares about those lives lot, but more about courage. Courage to stand up and call out those that are corrupt in the city, similar to Newark. (I do recognize his means are far from conventional) Programs in L.A. have significantly decreased gang violence in areas such as Oakland.
    There are two groups I feel that honestly don’t want any better for the city. The ones who turn to crime, and those in the suburbs watching the news. They both share the mentality that Youngstown has no where to go but down.
    I believe the positive efforts are essential to the city, because as naive as the others believe them to be, they dare to make the city better. I say keep going- but if we do not dare to stand up to the crime to take measures to honestly say we’re not taking this anymore, those beautiful gardens will not be frequented for fear of being shot. The crime is steadily growing worse. the less hope any one can find among the empty homes.
    But these are my opinions. I don’t honestly know what to do. I will admit I have no patience for politics, which is my downfall because I alone can’t beat the system.
    I can only think to be a good neighbor, to take care of my home, to watch out for the kids in the neighborhood. I believe in organizations like the rescue mission, that not only shelter the homeless but offer GED courses and business school placement. I believe in the business effort downtown- we have to give people the means of getting off of their feet, and as my neighbor put it, “It just feels good to know I have a job now. To get up for a job, after two years of unemployment.”
    I still see hope.

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