Illinois boasts a storied history, a vibrant cultural tapestry, and breathtaking natural landscapes. Yet, it also grapples with some of the nation’s most perilous urban areas, as evidenced by FBI data. Among these, one city stands out as the most precarious: Mount Vernon.
What Makes Mount Vernon So Dangerous?
Nestled in southern Illinois, Mount Vernon, with its roughly 14,000 residents, serves as the seat of Jefferson County and is renowned as the birthplace of actor John Malkovich. However, it’s equally notorious for its alarming crime rates, particularly in the realm of violent offenses.
Per FBI statistics, Mount Vernon registers a staggering violent crime rate of 1,658 incidents per 100,000 individuals, more than three times the national average and double the state’s. These violent crimes encompass heinous acts such as murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. In 2023, Mount Vernon reported a harrowing 10 murders, 34 rapes, 46 robberies, and 177 aggravated assaults.
Mount Vernon also grapples with a high property crime rate of 5,792 per 100,000 residents, over twice the national average and nearly double the state average. Property crimes encompass burglaries, larceny-thefts, and motor vehicle thefts. The city recorded 221 burglaries, 669 larceny-thefts, and 58 motor vehicle thefts in 2023.
What Are the Causes and Consequences of Crime in Mount Vernon?
Several factors contribute to Mount Vernon’s persistently high crime rates:
- Poverty: Mount Vernon’s poverty rate, as per the U.S. Census Bureau, stands at 25.9%, considerably higher than both the state (11.5%) and national (10.5%) averages. Poverty often fosters desperation, frustration, and hopelessness, breeding an environment conducive to criminal activity.
- Unemployment: The city grapples with an unemployment rate of 7.2%, exceeding both the state (6.2%) and national (5.4%) averages, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. High unemployment levels can reduce income, opportunities, and self-esteem, thereby increasing the likelihood of criminal involvement.
- Drug Issues: Mount Vernon faces a severe drug problem, with a drug overdose death rate of 38 per 100,000 individuals in 2023, surpassing state and national averages of 28 and 21 per 100,000, respectively. Substance abuse impairs judgment, heightens aggression, and fuels addiction, all of which contribute to criminal behavior.
- Gang Activity: Mount Vernon contends with the presence of street gangs, such as the Gangster Disciples and the Vice Lords, as reported by the Illinois State Police. These gangs engage in various criminal activities, including drug trafficking, robbery, extortion, and violence, sowing discord and fear in the community.
Consequences of Crime in Mount Vernon
The ramifications of high crime rates in Mount Vernon are profound:
- Safety: Crime poses an immediate threat to the safety and well-being of residents and visitors, resulting in physical injuries, psychological trauma, and emotional distress. It also fosters insecurity and distrust among community members.
- Economic Impact: Crime detrimentally affects the city’s economy by diminishing productivity, income, and investment. The increased costs and risks associated with crime can dissuade businesses from operating or expanding in Mount Vernon, while also discouraging tourists due to safety concerns.
- Reputation: Crime tarnishes Mount Vernon’s reputation, overshadowing its positive aspects and achievements. This negative image reduces the pride and confidence of residents while impacting the city’s overall perception.
What Can Be Done to Improve the Situation in Mount Vernon?
Addressing crime in Mount Vernon is a complex endeavor, but various stakeholders can take steps to combat the issue:
- Law Enforcement: Enhanced police presence, proactive patrols, interagency collaboration, and community engagement can bolster law enforcement’s role in crime prevention and response.
- Education: Schools and educational institutions can contribute by providing quality education, fostering social skills, and promoting civic values. Extracurricular activities and support services can also keep students engaged and motivated.
- Community Involvement: Residents can actively participate in crime reduction efforts by reporting crimes, cooperating with authorities, joining neighborhood watch groups, and supporting local initiatives.
Mount Vernon, with its potential and promise, grapples with crime as one of its most pressing issues, impacting its quality of life and future. Yet, crime is not an insurmountable challenge. Through collective effort and commitment, Mount Vernon can evolve into a safer and more prosperous community for all.