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America’s Big Cities in Crisis: The Tragic Decline of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago

By LightWave Editors · June 11, 2024

These are trying times for folks who live in America’s biggest cities. The bloom is off the rose for millions of urban dwellers as they contend with rising crime and taxes, diminished services, and an unprecedented brutishness, where violent assaults, smash-and-grab looting, and homeless encampments have become a way of life.

A decade ago New York proudly called itself America’s safest large city — with the stats to prove it. San Francisco was an urban utopia where virtually any technology could be invented and any social challenge overcome.

But through hubris and an unfathomable lapse of common sense, the culture of America’s flagship cities — New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago — has shifted radically in the last ten years, with tragic consequences. Each day brings fresh news from these fading metropolises of brazen crimes, broken businesses. and bizarre policies, adding to a growing sense of doom.

Below are recent examples of these sad events.  Seth Harrison/The Journal News / USA TODAY NETWORK

June 3, 2024 - Columbia U. may have lost $260 million over poor handling of anti-Jewish protests (New York)

A Columbia University alumnus donated $260 million to Bar-Ilan University in Israel, snubbing his alma mater. The anonymous donor, described as a North American Jew and WWII veteran, chose Bar-Ilan for its scientific and technological advancements. Speculation arose that his decision was influenced by anti-Israel protests at Columbia. The donation will fund "deep tech" sciences, potentially impacting Israel's future. This is one of the largest academic gifts ever recorded.

(Based on report by NY Post)  Olivia Falcigno-USA TODAY

June 4, 2024 - NYC loses over 15% of its hotel rooms to migrants - Tourists pay the price (New York)

New York City's hotel industry is grappling with the conversion of 121 hotels into migrant shelters, removing roughly 15% of the city's hotel rooms and driving up prices. With 16,000 former hotel rooms now housing migrants, room rates have surged past $300 a night, impacting tourism. Despite these challenges, officials argue that tourism is rebounding. The city has spent $1.3 billion on contracts for emergency shelters, providing a financial boost to struggling mid-tier and economy hotels.

(Based on report by NY Post)  Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

June 5, 2024 - Two NYPD cops shot by migrant, one at point-blank range (New York)

A Venezuelan migrant, Bernardo Raul Castro Mata, 19, is accused of shooting two NYPD officers during a chase in Queens. Prosecutors said Mata shot Officer Richard Yarusso in the chest at point-blank range and Officer Christopher Abreu in the leg before being shot in the ankle. Mata is being held without bail.

(Based on report by NY Post)  Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

June 7, 2024 - NYC hate crimes spike, led by soaring antisemitism - Shootings, assaults continue to rise (New York)

New York City is seeing a fourth consecutive rise in hate crimes, driven by a surge in antisemitic incidents, according to police data. By May 31, there were 276 hate crime complaints, up from 210 in 2023, with antisemitic incidents increasing from 97 to 164. This spike follows anti-Israel demonstrations on major college campuses. Citywide robberies, shootings, and assaults all saw increases.

(Based on report by Fox News)  Madeline Carter/Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

June 7, 2024 - New Texas stock exchange takes aims at NYSE, Nasdaq (New York)

A new stock exchange in Texas, the Texas Stock Exchange (TXSE), aims to challenge Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange. TXSE Group announced it has raised $120 million, with major investors like BlackRock and Citadel Securities. TXSE seeks to reduce fees and improve liquidity and pricing, addressing frustrations with the current duopoly. CEO James Lee emphasized the need for competition in quote activity and transparency. Many believe the move could impact New York’s status as America’s financial hub.

(Based on report by Wall St. Journal)  Billie Grace Ward/Wikimedia

May 30, 2024 - Actor Johnny Wactor gunned down after confronting car thieves (Los Angeles)

"General Hospital" actor Johnny Wactor was fatally shot in downtown Los Angeles after confronting catalytic converter thieves. Co-worker Anita Joy recounted how Wactor shielded her during the encounter, tragically taking the fatal shot. Wactor, who starred in nearly 200 episodes of "General Hospital" from 2020-22, died in the hospital. The suspects fled the scene. Joy shared the details, seeking justice for Wactor, while friends, family, and colleagues mourn his loss.

(Based on report by NBC-4)  IMDB

May 31, 2024 - LA’s $3 million anti-camping program generates permanent housing for just two people (Los Angeles)

An audit of Los Angeles' anti-camping law reveals that over $3 million was spent in three years, yet only two unhoused individuals found permanent housing. Enacted in September 2021, the policy aimed to reduce homeless encampments and address safety concerns. Despite engaging 175 encampments and temporarily housing 313 people, the policy had limited success, with 81% of sites being repopulated.

(Based on report by CBS News)  Photo by Olenka Kotyk on Unsplash

June 3, 2024 - More than $100K in Legos stolen from from L.A. and other regional stores (Los Angeles)

Thieves have stolen over $100,000 in Legos from seven stores across Southern California since April. The burglaries, targeting Lego resale stores like Bricks & Minifigs, have owners feeling vulnerable. The first theft occurred on April 3 in Riverside, followed by hits in Ontario, Whittier, Irvine, Costa Mesa, and Anaheim. Surveillance footage shows quick, targeted thefts, often involving breaking windows. The high value of some Lego sets, ranging from $400 to $1,000, has made these stores prime targets.

(Based on report by CBS News)  Photo by Gilbert Ng on Unsplash

June 4, 2024 - The latest target for L.A. thieves: Fire hydrants (Los Angeles)

Thieves are targeting fire hydrants across Los Angeles County, stealing around 100 hydrants this year, according to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. The thefts pose a significant risk to public safety, leaving areas vulnerable in emergencies. Golden State Water Company reports 302 hydrants stolen, costing over $1.2 million. Efforts to combat the issue include installing locks and communities working with law enforcement.

(Based on report by ABC-7 News)  Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

June 6, 2024 - LA residents losing in fight over lawless RV and homeless encampments (Los Angeles)

Los Angeles residents are increasingly frustrated with the growing homeless crisis and lack of action from the City Council. In response, some residents have taken matters into their own hands by installing barriers to prevent encampments. Councilmember Traci Park introduced a "vanlord" motion to address RV encampments, but it has yet to be scheduled for committee. In the meantime, residents fear the problem will escalate.

(Based on report by ABC-7 News)  Rene Ray De La Cruz / USA TODAY NETWORK

June 7, 2024 - California’s creative industry jobs fall 8% following strikes, crime and rising costs, regulation (Los Angeles)

In 2023, California's creative economy, based mainly in the Los Angeles region, saw an 8% decline, losing 70,830 jobs due to strikes by actors and writers in the TV and film industries, according to the latest annual "Creative Economy" report. The TV, film, and sound sectors bore 58% of the losses. The state’s fashion industry, which has been shrinking every year, sustained a 4 percent job decline last year, while jobs in the architecture sector are down 2 percent.

(Based on report by Women’s Wear Daily)  Photo by Jake Blucker on Unsplash

June 1, 2024 - Homelessness in Contra Costa County surges 18.5% in one year (San Francisco & Bay Area)

Contra Costa's unhoused ranks swelled a sobering 18.5% since 2023. The countywide census conducted in January identified 2,843 homeless individuals across the county representing a wide range of ages and demographics. The county hopes to address the crisis as it has funded 26% additional temporary and permanent beds.

(Based on report by CBS News)  Photo by Clay LeConey on Unsplash

June 2, 2024 - 7-Eleven shutters 2 Oakland stores amid wave of smash-and-grab robberies (San Francisco & Bay Area)

7-Eleven closed two Oakland stores on April 30 due to persistent smash-and-grab attacks. Workers removed logos and boarded up the MacArthur Boulevard and 23rd Avenue locations. Remaining stores faced repeated burglaries, with the latest at Piedmont Avenue, where thieves stole $10,000 in cigarettes. Manager Gautam Kumar lamented what was the third burglary in five months. Customers expressed concern over the impact on the community, while Kumar hoped for increased police patrols to prevent further incidents.

(Based on report by CBS News)  Photo by Ruby Khoesial on Unsplash

June 4, 2024 - San Francisco condo prices drop 25% as crime, homelessness rise (San Francisco & Bay Area)

San Francisco's high-end condos face steep discounts, with studios once priced at $500,000 now selling for $350,000 amid soaring crime and high mortgage rates. The 242-unit Serif building, for instance, lists studios at $360,000. Despite luxury amenities, only 50% of units are occupied four years post-opening. The tech worker exodus and high office vacancy rates contribute to the sluggish market.

(Based on report by Daily Mail)  Photo by Vladimir Kudinov on Unsplash

June 5, 2024 - Retailers abandon San Francisco's central business district as disorder dominates (San Francisco & Bay Area)

San Francisco's retail core lies desolate, a haunting scene of vacant storefronts and empty sidewalks. Once-thriving outlets like Uniqlo and H&M now shuttered casualties of rampant crime, drugs and homelessness. The Union Square district's vacancy rate stands at 20.6%, following a business exodus driven by assaults, vehicle thefts and years of unchecked decline.

(Based on report by Daily Mail)  Photo by Shen Pan on Unsplash

June 5, 2024 - Road crews flee Oakland’s ‘dangerous’ construction sites amid out-of-control crime (San Francisco & Bay Area)

In Oakland's Sobrante Park, a construction crew abandoned a pothole project, citing safety concerns amid rising crime. Businesses are also fleeing. The city's only In-N-Out Burger closed due to rampant theft and violence. Oakland's economic decline continues amid shuttered stores and makeshift homeless camps. Mayor Sheng Thao faces criticism for failing to secure state funds to combat retail theft.

(Based on report by Daily Mail)  Photo by Cedric Letsch on Unsplash

May 30, 2024 - Naked woman who ran over cop in stolen police car is released (Chicago)

In June 2022, Whitley Temple, in a psychotic state, stole a police car while naked and ran over Officer Edward Poppish. She then sped down an expressway, crashing into four cars. Temple faced multiple felony charges but was acquitted. Cook County Judge Tyria Walton ruled her not guilty for reasons of insanity. Temple has been cleared of all criminality and, while required to undergo a treatment plan, remains free.

(Based on reporting by People)  Photo by Nikhil Mistry on Unsplash

May 31, 2024 - Chicago couple on date — beaten and pepper sprayed by teens — lose baby (Chicago)

After a date night in Chicago's Streeterville, Nina and her husband were attacked by teens near Grand Avenue and McClurg Court. The teens, claiming ownership of the street, beat and pepper-sprayed the couple. Nina, pregnant at the time, lost her baby due to the assault. “We believe in faith,” she said, showing her injuries. Police arrested a 14-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl, charging them with misdemeanor battery.

(Based on report by Fox News)  Photo by Ahmed Syed on Unsplash

May 31, 2024 - Chicago business index craters for 6th straight month (Chicago)

Chicago's business-activity index fell to 35.4 in May, its lowest since May 2020, and below the expected 40.8. This marks the sixth consecutive month of contraction for the Chicago Business Barometer, also known as the Chicago PMI. The index, produced by ISM-Chicago with MNI, is released shortly before the national ISM manufacturing survey. Despite some improvement in other regional surveys, Chicago's index signals ongoing economic challenges.

(Based on report by MarketWatch)  Photo by Pedro Lastra on Unsplash

June 4, 2024 - 2 Chicago ride-share drivers robbed at gunpoint … in just 2 hours (Chicago)

Chicago police warned ride-share drivers to stay vigilant after two armed robberies occurred on the South Side within two hours. The first robbery happened at 2:30 a.m. on South Jeffrey Boulevard in Jackson Park. Ninety minutes later, another driver was robbed on South Phillips Avenue in South Shore. In both cases, a passenger was picked up, and an accomplice approached with a gun, demanding property. The suspects are described as two men, around 5'4", weighing 120-130 pounds, wearing dark clothing.

(Based on report by ABC-7 Chicago)  Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

June 5, 2024 - Chicago pol refuses to share crime alerts (Chicago)

Alderwoman Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth of Chicago's 48th Ward will stop sharing crime alerts publicly, claiming that over-reporting crime negatively impacts marginalized communities. Alerts will now be sent only to those who opt-in. This decision aligns with her commitment to progressive crime theories, despite a rise in robberies, sex crimes, and thefts. She claims community feedback influenced her belief that public perceptions of crime should be changed.

(Based on report by Fox News)  lenifor48th/X

June 7, 2024 - Chicago Mayor Johnson blows $30K on hair & makeup in one year (Chicago)

Chicago's progressive mayor, Brandon Johnson, spent $30,000 on makeup and hair appointments in his first year in office, using campaign funds. Most of this went to makeup artist Denise Milloy, with $4,000 spent on hair appointments. Despite facing criticism, his campaign advisor highlighted that Johnson supports Black- and women-owned businesses and uses his campaign funds instead of taxpayer money. Johnson’s makeup expenses far exceed those of his predecessors and other officials, certain to be an additional drag to his low approval ratings.

(Based on report by Daily Mail)  Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

June 9, 2024 - Chicago posts third-straight weekend of rampant violence with over 30 shootings, 6 dead (Chicago)

Six people were killed and 33 injured in Chicago over the weekend, marking the third consecutive weekend with over 30 shootings. Among the victims, a 28-year-old man died after being shot multiple times and crashing his car, and an 18-year-old woman was fatally shot in Englewood. The violence also saw a 14-year-old boy and a 55-year-old woman wounded. This surge follows a similar spike during Memorial Day weekend, with 42 people shot.

(Based on report by Chicago Sun-Times)  Photo by Fineas Anton on Unsplash