Watch our cities decay. See it spread.

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by Fabius Maximus

Summary: Rising homicide rates and normalization of theft are two epidemics afflicting some of America’s cities. These things spread, unless we do something to stop them. Since we accept them as normal, we’ll get more of them.

“Paying for things is for dummies!”
— Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey. Bad news for us if this view spreads.

Rotten Apple

What makes Birds of Prey like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, not light humor like Monty Python’s Life of Brian, is our awareness that it describes (in exaggerated fashion) things happening in America today (see this story). But while we enjoy seeing this decay in films, we do not want to know the reality. When I mention the following information to people, they shrug. I sent this information to a sharp guy, who replied “I don’t believe it.”

For example, some US cities are in the midst of a breakdown of society. The US has 4 cities in the world’s top 50 of homicides per capita. No other developed nation has a city on the list. The worst city in Europe is Marseilles, with a homicide rate of 2.5 per 100k. New Orleans is #50 with a rate of 37 per 100k – 15x times that of Marseilles. The US city with the 100th worst rate (this includes many small cities) has a rate of 10.7 per 100k – over 4x that of Marseilles.

US Violent Crimes rate by year
BJS numbers per Pew Research.

Another batch of cities is coming apart at the seams (e.g., Seattle and San Francisco). A larger number are almost certain to go broke in the next decade or two from gross mismanagement and corruption. This includes two of the big three: NYC and Chicago. Here are 18 cities with high debt loads and 15 cities with high levels of financial stress.

For more about this, see Many of our cities are collapsing.

By 2018, US violent crime rates had stoped their decline and might have began rising. The numbers in 2019 will be worse. I live in a small city in eastern Iowa, where the rates of violent and non-violent crime are rising fast. In Iowa.

Little of this is rational, as it was in the crack wars of the 1980s. Much of it is madness.

Theft is AOK!

“Like why are we locking kids up for evading fares {turnstile jumpers}. They don’t got it! …Public transit should be free anyway!”
— Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), a member of the “squad”, at Howard U. The crowd burst into cheers. Per Fox News.

Theft is ok! It is an increasingly common belief. In an interview Kim Kardashian West tells girls that shoplifting is also cool and fun!

“We were in Hawaii and there was this Christian Dior store and no one [was working] there. Like, it was [in] the wild… just an empty store. Khloe really wanted the Dior sunglasses, so she took them and we walked out,” Kardashian West tells me, giggling as she remembers the details. “These sunglasses were everything. I still have them to this day and they were so much fun. So cute. That was so funny. We were like ‘this is wild.’ I think the [employee] must have gone to the bathroom or been in the back by herself on a Sunday. I don’t know what the story was, but it was really funny.”

I was interviewing for retail sales managers jobs in Iowa. All mentioned that blatant shoplifting is becoming common. One store manager said that earlier that day three people walked out with bags filled with goods, not paying. He shrugged. It’s a cost of business. There is nothing they can do without physical risk to their employees or legal risk to the store. Eventually the police come to do the paperwork. The group hit a supermarket afterward (even thieves have to eat).

On Youtube you can see how brazen shoplifters have become. Examples hereherehere, and here. The 2018 Retail Theft Survey reports what should be obvious, but isn’t.

“Theft case values soared in 2018 with the average shoplifting case value ($301.97) increasing 11.8%; the average dishonest employee case value ($1,361.37) increasing an amazing 30.1%; and the total average theft case value ($408.77) up 17.0%! …Apprehensions were down 11.8% from 2017. …Therefore, only 7.8% of total retail theft losses resulted in a recovery.”

Loss prevention consultant Chris E. McGoey describes the new world for retailers.

“It has always been happening, but it’s much easier to fence the goods these days. These thieves work diligently to {steal} popular items such as over-the-counter medicines, razors, batteries, tools, cell phones, and designer clothing. It is common for them to work in teams, employ distraction techniques, and use booster-bags to circumvent anti-shoplifting systems. …It has always been happening, but it’s much easier to fence the goods these days. There are so many online sites.”

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The Retail Theft Survey confirms this “Many thieves have found that selling their stolen items through various online auction sites …results in quicker sales and much higher prices than the traditional selling of items on the street or at a local flea market.”

As usual, California leads the way. “Reforms” made shoplifting not just lucrative but safer. Other forms of property crime are also increasing. See the sad details here and here (click through the links for more information). Also see this post about the Left’s “reforms” in California – and their plans to cripple the police (as crime rises).

Other cities and states with Democratic leadership are following its path. Such as Chicago.

“The CBS 2 Morning Insiders have discovered thefts from stores have been on the rise in Chicago for years – up 34% since the start of 2015. …So what’s causing the spike? We asked Tanya Triche Dawood of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. ‘Low risk, high reward for retail theft,’ Dawood said. She says one driver is a decision from Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. In December 2016, she announced her office would only prosecute theft cases as felonies if the thief steals $1,000 worth a merchandise or more, despite a statewide threshold of $300. ‘We feel the policy encouraged, emboldened more people to steal,’ Dawood said.”

The West is a collective entity, a neighborhood in the global village, as seen in this story in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“A study of over 9000 Australian and New Zealand retailers has revealed the cost of theft in-store has now reached a “crisis point” for companies as shoplifters have become more brazen in recent years. …Dr Emmeline Taylor, the report’s lead researcher and Reader in Criminology at the University of London said retailers were being hit from all angles when it came to theft, with criminals going out of their way to find ways around loss-prevention methods.

“‘Shop theft is an age-old crime, and where we used to see the occasional items being taken by customers, we’re now seeing things like organised gangs, and individuals doing refund fraud. …Thieves feel that it’s become easier than ever, they feel they’ve got complete free rein to steal with impunity.’”

Mark Gentle, vice-president of loss prevention company Checkpoint Systems, gives more details to the Australian Financial Review.

“Four to five years ago internal theft was higher than external theft and we used to have big problems with people stealing from their employer – now external theft dominates. …Even if [shoplifters] get caught the penalties are very soft. …We’re now seeing a lot more organised crime, especially in Victoria, where you’ve seen a lot more ‘steaming’, where micro-gangs come into retail outlets [such as mobile phone stores] and do a slash and grab. The other side is organised crime where gangs come into Australia from overseas stealing to order and shipping it out of the country.”

Britain is also affected, for similar reasons as the US. Emmeline Taylor, Reader in Criminology at the University of London, explained the findings of the British Retail Consortium’s Retail Crime Survey.

“Customer theft is on the increase. There are multiple factors that could be contributing to this. …For example, the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 allows anyone stealing goods costing less than £200 to plead guilty by post – or face the magistrates’ court. The impact of ‘austerity’ measures across the criminal justice {reducing the number of police} is undoubtedly impacting on levels of theft and violence across the retail sector. …

“Incidents of violence and verbal abuse experienced by shop workers is increasing in both frequency and severity. The survey findings show that more than 800 retail employees are physically attacked each week, and many more are verbally threatened or abused. It is worth pointing out that this is likely to be a huge underestimate as many incidents go unreported. This is no secret to the industry, particularly those selling fast moving consumer goods such as food and beverages. We know retailers are suffering from heightened levels of in store violence directed at staff as a result of age-related sales – such as for alcohol or solvents – and when challenging shoplifters. Verbal abuse and violence is being directed at employees who are simply doing their job – working on the checkout, stocking shelves, and serving customers.”

“With the number of police officers in England and Wales at the lowest recorded level since the early 1980s it is unsurprising that 80% of respondents describe the police response to retail crime as poor or very poor”.


Many Americans think these signs of decay are just business-as-usual. No big deal. So instead we worry about theoretical or low-probability futures while the bolts pop loudly out of our society. It is not business as usual.

We are in, I suspect, an early stage of the collapse of all values predicted by Nietzsche. A society runs only when people have some core shared values. Ours have been washing away for 50 years. Now the erosion reaches “theft is bad.” Lose that and a society rides a slippery slope to a bad end.

The distingration of some cities shows a different kind of social unraveling from a different kind of stress.




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