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Large U.S. cities that the rest of the world used to look at in envy are now being transformed into gang-infested hellholes with skyrocketing crime rates.

Cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Camden, East St. Louis, New Orleans and Oakland were once bustling with economic activity, but as industry has fled those communities poverty has exploded and so has criminal activity. Meanwhile, financial problems have caused all of those cities to significantly reduce their police forces. Sadly, this same pattern is being repeated in hundreds of communities all over the nation.

There are approximately 1.4 million gang members living in America today according to the FBI. That number has shot up by a whopping 40 percent just since 2009. There are several factors fueling this trend. Unemployment among our young people is at an epidemic level, about one out of every three U.S. children lives in a home without a father, and there are millions of young men who have come into this country illegally and have no way to legally support themselves once they arrive in our cities. Gangs provide a support system, a feeling of “community”, and a sense of purpose for many young people.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the large cities all over America that are degenerating into gang-infested war zones . . .

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East St. Louis

East St. Louis has a national reputation for being a city that you want to avoid. The following is from a recent Bloomberg article about the growing crime in that community . . .

Dodging open manholes where thieves had swiped cast-iron covers, Stephen Wigginton drives the crumbling streets of his hometown, East St. Louis, Illinois, pointing out new landmarks in America’s most violent city.

There’s the shopping mall where a police officer was shot in the face, a youth center that saw a triple homicide in September, and scattered about the city of 27,000 are brightly lit gas stations that serve as magnets for carjackers, hit-and-run robbers and killers.

“It’s the Wild West,” said Wigginton, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.

Today, the murder rate in East St. Louis is 17 times higher than the national average, but financial problems have forced huge cuts to the police budget. The number of police patrolling the streets of East St. Louis was reduced by 33 percent between 2008 and 2011.

Camden

Camden, New Jersey is another city that has experienced huge cuts to the police budget. Their police force shrank by about a third between 2008 and 2011. Today, Camden is considered to be one of the most dangerous cities in America and it has a murder rate that is about ten times higher than New York City.

The gangs have a very strong hold over Camden, and kids kill kids on a regular basis in the city. The following is a brief excerpt from a recent article about the horrible violence that is plaguing Camden

At the vigil last week, residents prayed that Camden would simply find peace and that the masked gunman who killed Jewel Manire and Khalil Gibson would be caught.

As it grew darker, Michael Benjamin stood toward the back of the crowd, his son huddled even closer now, and shook his head.

“I’ve known at least 45 kids who’ve been killed in my lifetime,” he said, the boy holding his finger. “I stopped counting in 2004, though.”

Chicago

In recent years there have been massive cuts to the police budget in Chicago due to financial difficulties. At the same time, gang activity has dramatically increased in the city.

 The murder rate in Chicago was about 17 percent higher in 2012 than it was in 2011, and Chicago is now considered to be “the deadliest global city“.

If you can believe it, the number of murders in Chicago during 2012 was roughly equivalent to the number of murders in the entire country of Japan during 2012.

Approximately 80 percent of all murders and shootings in the city of Chicago are gang-related, and as the gangs continue to grow in size the violence in the city is going to get even worse.

Detroit

I write a lot about Detroit, but that is because they are a perfect example of where the rest of America is headed if something dramatic is not done.

Detroit used to be one of the greatest manufacturing cities the world has ever seen, but over the past several decades the economic infrastructure of Detroit has been gutted and now there is very little industry left in the city.

Over half the children in the city live in poverty and a sense of hopelessness hangs in the air. At the same time, financial problems have forced the city to lay off huge numbers of cops. Back in 2005, there were about 4,000 police officers in Detroit. Today there are only about 2,500 and another 100 are scheduled to be eliminated from the force soon.

Meanwhile, crime in Detroit just continues to get even worse. There were 377 homicides in Detroit in 2011. In 2012, that number rose to 411.

New Orleans

New Orleans was a crime-infested city even before Hurricane Katrina hit it in 2005, but life has never quite been the same since that time.

If New Orleans was considered to be a separate nation, it would have the 2nd highest murder rate on the entire planet. There are some areas of New Orleans that you simply do not ever want to venture into at night.

Meanwhile, the police force has been such a mess in recent years that the federal government finally decided to step in. It is hoped that the “reforms” will mean less crime in New Orleans in future years, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Oakland

Today, there are 626 police officers in Oakland, California. That is about a 25 percent decline from the 837 police officers that were patrolling the streets of Oakland back in December 2008.

Predictably, criminals have stepped in and have taken advantage of the situation. At one point in 2012, burglaries in the city of Oakland were up 43 percent over the previous year.

If you can believe it, more than 11,000 homes, cars and businesses were burglarized in Oakland during 2012.

Stockton

Police cuts in the city of Stockton, California have been so severe that the Stockton Police Officers’ Association ran a billboard advertisement with the following message at one point: “Welcome to the 2nd most dangerous city in California: Stop laying off cops!”

At the same time, crime in Stockton continues to get even worse. There have been more than 250 gold chain robberies in Stockton since the month of April, and there is no indication that crime in the city is going to slow down any time soon.

So what is the solution?

Should we have everyone turn in their guns?

No, that would just make the problem even worse. The gangs aren’t going to turn in their guns. The only people who would turn in their guns would be law-abiding citizens. That would just make them even more vulnerable to the violence and crime that are starting to spread like wildfire all over the nation.

We don’t have a gun problem in America. What we have is a gang problem.

Just recently, the city attorney of San Bernardino, California told citizens living there to “lock their doors and load their guns” because the police force in that city is being cut back again.

And that is good advice. As the economy continues to decline and as millions more Americans fall into poverty, the violence is going to get even worse.

[Editor’s Note: Below are the demographic data for the cities mentioned above:]

City

Population

Black

Hispanic

White

Chicago

2,707,120

32.9%

28.9%

31.7%

Camden

77,283

48.1%

47.0%

4.9%

East St. Louis

27,027

98.0%

0.5%

0.8%

Detroit

706,585

82.7%

6.8%

7.8%

New Orleans

360,740

60.2%

5.2%

30.5%

Stockton

296,357

12.2%

40.3%

22.9%

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