Tag Archives: Crime

Examining Corruption in Chicago

This article from Chicago Magazine tries to examine Chicago (and by extension Illinois’) culture of corruption in politics.

Among the reasons cited for the state’s problem: old habits die hard, no will for reform, mob connections, racial tensions and more.

What do you think after reading this?

How many of the same things apply to your city?


Leave a comment

Filed under Crime, Politics

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

Killing with Impunity

By now you have probably heard, police have found ten bodies inside and east Cleveland home.

The resident, Anthony Sowell, was arrested by Cleveland police earlier this week after a short manhunt. Sowell, a convicted rapist, was found not far from the home.


He previously served 15 years for rape and was being monitored by police when he was accused of raping and strangling a neighborhood woman he lured into his house with an offer of alcohol.

For days, investigators have been dismantling Sowell’s home, finding remains throughout. Neighbors reported a foul smell, which was mistakenly attributed to a sausage shop, located next door.

I think everyone is wondering, how could this happen? How does a man kill ten people, six identified so far as women, without being discovered?

The case has raised some questions about the police response to the rape report and the ongoing monitoring Sowell was supposed to receive as a sex offender. From what I’ve read, this doesn’t appear to be a case of police negligence.

Police followed up on the rape report, but had a difficult time connecting with the victim. Meanwhile, he was subject to regular home visits, one shortly before his arrest.

On the other hand, it does raise the question, are Cleveland police taking crime reports seriously in poor, African American neighborhoods?

Best-Selling book “The Devil in the White City” tells the story of H.H. Homes, a serial killer who took advantage of the excitement surrounding the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair to murder nine women.

It’s clear that in this case a bad man was able to take advantage of the chaos resulting from the foreclosure crisis and extreme poverty that is plaguing Cleveland.

How sad for those women, mothers and daughters.

How sad for the others who wait to hear about missing loved ones.

How sad for a community whose fabric has been blown apart.



Filed under Crime, Featured

Buying my First House in Youngstown, Ohio

This article was contributed by Megan Reed, a late-20ies Youngstown resident and software salesperson.

As many young adults do, I recently took upon the endeavor of buying my very first home. I began my search after many years (almost ten) of renting apartment after apartment, and then renting an entire house. I always enjoyed the freedom that comes with renting. An apartment felt like an over extended stay in a hotel room, it really wasn’t my place to begin with, I just stayed there for a while-I can leave anytime I want, or that is, when my lease ends. After some time, I started to see and hear the value of ownership from friends who became proud home owners.

I began my search in Youngstown, focusing on both the North and south sides of the city. I first moved to the north side of Youngstown in 1999 for college, stayed mostly in the city for the majority of my time in college, and then found an amazing job in downtown Youngstown. Being familiar with living in the city, especially the north side, I had no apprehensions about moving back. I grew up in downtown East Liverpool, in a house from the 1890s my parents completely restored- and I knew I wanted something similar to the big, old house I loved so much as a child. The suburbs-Boardman, Poland and Canfield-had none of the architecture or price range I was looking for. Youngstown became my only answer.

One of the first sources of opposition I faced during this time was convincing my colleagues, family and some friends that buying a house in the city was not going to be such a “terrible mistake,” as one family member put it. I listened, nodded and then explained my theory- “If you want to make the city better, don’t sit back and wait for it to happen, do it.” I feel one of the greatest problems plaguing Youngstown has been the deterioration of our beautiful and historical homes run down by numerous slum lords, blight and abandonment. Yet regardless of how anyone felt about Youngstown, I received constant lectures about my safety, property values and of course- school districts.

After a year or so of searching, going on multiple home tours throughout the city, many times walking into homes whose next visitor is probably a wrecking ball, I found my house!
It is a grand, all brick, 2600 square feet Craftsman style home from 1927. The area I live in is the South Side, a neighborhood as described by the appraisal as “stable.” The neighborhood has its own bright and dark spots- many of the houses surrounding me are well taken care of, and many are empty. (The house next to us is empty and has been for over a year)

Now that I determined which home to purchase my next step was to get the loan. I went through a brokerage agency- who took the best care of me. However that care came with a price- I worked non-stop for thirty days to provide every document ever created from my financial life. The experience is not one I want to relive anytime soon- constant time spent on the phone with the agency, working non-stop to save every penny to put for the down payment and working with my realtor to make sure every precaution necessary was in place to ensure this was a good house.

After one month of signing the contract, working to produce everything but my first born to the brokerage agency, we moved into our house. Now that I’m here there have been a few additional surprises I was unprepared for.

Insurance: Finding home owner’s insurance involved trying to wrap my head around their system. The cost for my home’s insurance was through the roof- why? Because of the “rebuild” value. It would take X amount of dollars to rebuild this old house, and then factor in the city’s crime rate. This has also impacted my car insurance- why? Because the insurance companies feel living in the city of Youngstown increases my chances of theft, damage and bothering them for a claim.

Stigmas: First- i will state it is not my family who really has fears for me living in the city, they are very supportive and not from here- but our other family, colleagues and some friends expressed great concerns of us living in Youngstown. I’m not certain where their fears lie. Perhaps from the news, statistics or just the general stigma the suburbanites have against Youngstown, but it is prevalent. They have stated numerous times, “Are you sure you want to live there? Do you know how bad it is? You’ll never be able to get any money out of that house.”

So far yes, we have heard noises that I question to be either fireworks, cars back firing or gun shots. Yes- there is an abandoned home next door to me and many in the neighborhoods behind our home (about two on the block directly behind our house) and many across the street. There are occupied homes with great neighbors that I have met. They are proud people, taking care of amazing homes built to last for centuries. My neighbors were elated to meet us, relieved a young couple bought the home on their street- keeping out landlords, blight and protecting the integrity of the street. We have many homes around us who are kept up by proud homeowners such as myself. We have more than a purpose than home value- we are keeping the value of the city alive come hell or high water. My goal is not only to live in Youngstown, taking great care of my house but also my street, block, and city. There are many good people and homes left in our city, still many great neighborhoods with architecture unknown to the modern contractor, yet to be discovered.


Filed under architecture, Featured, Real Estate, The Housing Crisis

Blogging Down Crime

Block Watch organizations across the county are latching on to a new powerful tool: social media.

The Associated Press reports block watch organizations are increasing utilizing tools like Twitter and blogs.

The article follows a Columbus lawyer who tweets about suspicious vehicles and break-ins to protect his crime-ridden Old Oaks neighborhood.

Columbus lawyer and block watch captain Richard Vickers

Columbus lawyer and block watch captain Richard Vickers

The strategy has payed off for Mr. Vickers. Neighbors report criminal activity has dwindled and the streets are safer.


Filed under Crime, Featured, Good Ideas

How Do You Stop An Epidemic of Violence?


I hesitate to even post this story, it is so violent, depressing, and hopeless.

At a recent cookout in East Baltimore, a dozen people were shot – which in itself is bad enough – but is part of a larger wave of violence that swept the city recently.

“The shootings on Conkling were not related to the shooting on Ashland, which might have sparked the shootings at Baltimore and Bond, which might have led to the shootings on Comet, which might have been retaliation for a shooting six months ago which was retaliation for a shooting four months before that, which was retaliation for a kidnapping two months before that,” as the Baltimore Sun explains.

And even worse, in a scenario straight out of The Wire, it seems the cops don’t have enough good intelligence on the shooters, the story reports.

I don’t know what the answer is, which is why I hate to post stories like this…How can a city even hope to overcome this kind of violence?

Thanks to Rust Wire reader and Baltimore resident Eric Noyes for bringing this story to our attention.


Filed under Crime, Featured, Urban Poverty

A Disturbing Crime in Toledo


Last month, 66-year-old Robert Brundage was riding his bicycle home from a Jobs with Justice meeting at the library in Toledo’s Old West End neighborhood.

Around 6:30 p.m., he was knocked off his bike by a 15-year-old who lives nearby; the teen stole Brundage’s bicycle. Brundage died.

Brundage was well-known to many in the city – he was often seen riding his bike, or attending board or other meetings for the Collingwood Arts Center, the Toledo Poetry Foundation, the Urban Coalition, the MultiFaith Council of Northwest Ohio, Toledo Area Jobs With Justice Coalition, Community Shares of Northwest Ohio, Toledo Grows, Toledo Central City Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation, the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, and the Toledo Metroparks, The Blade reported.

His death has shocked and horrified many in the city and especially in his Old West End neighborhood.

The OWE is the city’s most distinctive neighborhood, made up of stately Victorian and Arts & Crafts homes where Captains of Industry once lived. It has a reputation as an area for young folks, gay people, artsy-types, bike riders, and is probably the city’s most racially integrated neighborhood, where black and white residents live side by side. It is a central-city area surrounded by largely low-income areas.

I don’t know what more I can say about this terrible crime.

Brundage’s memorial service is set for July 24 at the Collingwood Arts Center.


Filed under Crime, Urban Poverty