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Portland, San Francisco and Cleveland have America’s most deserted downtown areas

San Francisco, Cleveland and Portland have the most deserted downtowns in the US as soaring crime rates in the Democratic cities scare away workers and tourists.

In a recent study by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California Berkeley, San Francisco’s downtown area was found to be only 31 percent active over the spring of 2022 when compared to pre-pandemic levels, with Cleveland at 36 percent and Portland at 41 percent.

Meanwhile, cities like Salt Lake City, Utah, Bakersfield, California and Columbus Ohio are enjoying the fastest comeback, seeing their downtown activity go up by more than 110 percent since 2019. 

By tracking more than 18 million smartphone users traveling through America’s busiest downtowns, researchers found that the three cities, which have been plagued by a spike in crime, are trailing in COVID-19 recovery. 

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San Francisco's downtown area was found to be only 31 percent active over the spring of 2022 after the city finally agreed to shut down its controversial open-air drug market by the end of the year

San Francisco’s downtown area was found to be only 31 percent active over the spring of 2022 after the city finally agreed to shut down its controversial open-air drug market by the end of the year

Cleveland's downtown activity was down 36 percent compared to 2019 as the city suffers a slow pandemic recovery

Cleveland’s downtown activity was down 36 percent compared to 2019 as the city suffers a slow pandemic recovery

Portland ranked the third-lowest city in downtown activity as the city contends with soaring homelessness and crime after years of protests calling to defund the police

Portland ranked the third-lowest city in downtown activity as the city contends with soaring homelessness and crime after years of protests calling to defund the police

According to the latest available FBI Unified Crime Report, San Francisco had the highest overall crime rate of the 20 largest cities in the United States, recording 6,917 crimes per 100,000 population in 2019. 

That was more than double the crime rates in New York and Los Angeles, and well above the rates in the next largest US cities: Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix. 

A year later following the Black Lives Matter protests, the call to defund the police grew among Democratic leaders.  

San Francisco Mayor London Breed demanded cities defund the police last year, announcing that the Golden Gate City would be one of the first to do so and promising to slice $120million from the budgets of its police and sheriff’s departments.

The city also greenlit its first open-air drug market in San Francisco’s civic center, which spurred vagrants in homeless encampments across the city to use illegal substances out in broad daylight.  

Breed has since made a screeching U-turn and announced she was asking the city’s Board of Supervisors for more money to be given to the police to stamp out drug dealing, car break-ins, and theft.

After initial calls to defund the police, San Francisco Mayor London Breed (pictured) has made a screeching U-turn and announced she was asking the city's Board of Supervisors for more money to be given to the police to stamp out crime

After initial calls to defund the police, San Francisco Mayor London Breed (pictured) has made a screeching U-turn and announced she was asking the city’s Board of Supervisors for more money to be given to the police to stamp out crime

San Francisco has the highest overall crime rate of the 20 largest cities in the United States, easily exceeding the crime rates of the five largest cities (seen above)

San Francisco has the highest overall crime rate of the 20 largest cities in the United States, easily exceeding the crime rates of the five largest cities (seen above)

Chesa Boudin was ousted from his position in June, after critics accused him of not doing enough to keep residents and business owners safe amid a crime wave

He has since been replaced by Brooke Jenkins has fired at least 15 members of her predecessor's staff following his ouster last month

Chesa Boudin (left) was ousted from his position as District Attorney in June, after critics accused him of not doing enough to keep residents and business owners safe amid a crime wave.  Brooke Jenkins (right) has since taken over and fired 15 members of Boudin’s team

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Crime remains stubbornly high in the Golden Gate City, with overall crime up 7.4 percent as of August 14 compared to the same time last year. 

Assaults are up nearly 12 percent, and robberies are up 2.4 percent. Thefts have spiked by 17.5 percent compared to last year, and rapes have also increased by 9.5 percent.   

In June, citizens fed up with the state of their city voted to oust woke District Attorney Chesa Boudin, whose anti-incarceration policies have been widely panned as causing the ongoing crisis.

He was originally elected on a platform of criminal justice reform, but his notoriously progressive laws have been widely blamed for rising crime and homelessness in the Bay Area since the start of the pandemic.

During Boudin’s time in office, ‘smash-and-grab’ robberies became commonplace, with thieves brazenly raiding store shelves in broad daylight, only to avoid charges thanks to Boudin’s lax policies. 

He has since been replaced by Brooke Jenkins, 40, who cleaned house after taking her old boss’ job as both she and Breed vowed to crack down on soaring crime and increasingly prevalent open-air drug markets in the city. 

The city’s open-air drug market project was terminated and would be shut down by the end of the year. 

Breed called for progressive policies that have allowed criminal behavior to make a mockery of the city’s famed tolerance and compassion to be replaced with ‘more aggressive policing.’

Breed said she plans to introduce legislation that allows law enforcement officers real-time access to surveillance video in certain situations, as well as measures that would make it harder to sell stolen goods. 

‘It’s time the reign of criminals who are destroying our city, it is time for it to come to an end,’ she said. ‘And it comes to an end when we take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement, more aggressive with the changes in our policies.’ 

Vagrancy has run rampant in San Francisco, where drug use in broad daylight has become exceedingly common

Vagrancy has run rampant in San Francisco, where drug use in broad daylight has become exceedingly common

In the California city, homeless encampments line the streets despite the official's efforts to clean up the area

In the California city, homeless encampments line the streets despite the official’s efforts to clean up the area

Pictured: homeless individuals lining up outside a liquor store in July as the city cracks down on vagrancy

Pictured: homeless individuals lining up outside a liquor store in July as the city cracks down on vagrancy

Meanwhile, in Cleveland, the city is urgently trying to recover from its historically high crime rate, which saw an average of 10,435 arrests in the past three years. 

As of the first half of the year, the city has only reported 3,764 arrests, with weapon charges sinking by 51 percent since last year, with police reporting a 49 percent drop in guns confiscated. 

Drug arrests have dropped by 32 percent since the same time last year, and there were 29 percent fewer arrests for grand theft auto. 

But police are still condending with high homicide rates, reporting 90 killings as of August, only slightly down from the 101 murders reroded by the same time last year.  

In 2021, 169 people died in homicides, more than double the figure from a decade earlier. In 2020, 179 people were killed, a marked increase over 2019’s number of 122.

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb has helped with the turnaround in the city and is currently looking to end a federal court oversight of the city’s police force in order to allow officers to crackdown on violent crime. 

‘The quickest we can get out of this decree, the better it will be for the police department and the taxpayers,’ Bibb told reporters on Tuesday. ‘I am working as quickly as I possibly can to get out of it.’

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb (above) is moving to allow more freedom for the city's police force to crack down on crime as it finally sees a decrease in decade high crime rates from last year

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb (above) is moving to allow more freedom for the city’s police force to crack down on crime as it finally sees a decrease in decade high crime rates from last year 

Despite dropping crime rates, Cleveland is still seeing a high murder rate as downtown recovery suffers

Despite dropping crime rates, Cleveland is still seeing a high murder rate as downtown recovery suffers 

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Oregon’s Lax Limits for Hard Drugs 

Under the new Oregon law that went into effect in February 2021, offenders caught with the following drug amounts can avoid criminal charges:

  • Less than 1 gram of heroin
  • Less than 1 gram, or less than 5 pills, of MDMA
  • Less than 2 grams of methamphetamine
  • Less than 40 units of LSD
  • Less than 12 grams of psilocybin
  • Less than 40 units of methadone
  • Less than 40 pills of oxycodone
  • Less than 2 grams of cocaine

Offenders caught with the following amounts of drugs will be charged with misdemeanor simple possession, rather than a felony:  

  • 1 to 3 grams of heroin
  • 1 to 4 grams of MDMA
  • 2 to 8 grams of methamphetamine
  • 2 to 8 grams of cocaine

Sporting the third-worst recovery in the downtown area, Portland has also been impacted by a rise in crime and homelessness, with calls to defund the police echoing loudly in the Oregon city. 

Portland’s federal courthouse and Apple Store, the sites of two large confrontations between protesters and police during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, remain closed off. 

John Tapogna, a policy adviser to Portland economic research firm ECONorthwest, told The Oregonian, that the empty buildings serve as a lingering warning over the state of the city. 

‘It certainly sends a signal to anybody who just passes by that something’s still off in this downtown,’ he said.

 ‘You don’t have to look very hard beyond toward those gates to see numerous blocks, still with a lot of plywood.’ 

And along with shuttered businesses, homeless encampments have grown severely in certain neighborhoods throughout the city. 

One realtor in the area said that she’s seen a surge of residents moving to the suburbs over the past two years.

‘Most people don’t want to have to worry about if they can leave their car parked in their driveway overnight without maybe having it broken into,’ Lauren Iaquinta told KGW8.

The real estate broker said it’s a ‘testy subject,’ and said the issue can be unpredictable due to homeless people settling down wherever they want.

The drug crisis in Portland, especially among homeless communities, has become unmanageable for authorities in the area. 

As the city deals with a rising homelessness problem, more than 16,000 Oregonians have accessed services through funding from Measure 110, designed to provide treatment

As the city deals with a rising homelessness problem, more than 16,000 Oregonians have accessed services through funding from Measure 110, designed to provide treatment

One man grimaces in pain as he shows the bandage on a gunshot wound as he sits on the street after his hospital release in Portland

One man grimaces in pain as he shows the bandage on a gunshot wound as he sits on the street after his hospital release in Portland

Tents line the streets as the crisis grows, worsened by a drug crisis that was caused partly by Oregon becoming the first state in the country to decriminalize many hard drugs

Tents line the streets as the crisis grows, worsened by a drug crisis that was caused partly by Oregon becoming the first state in the country to decriminalize many hard drugs

Following a surge of shooting incidents this year, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (pictured) issued an emergency declaration over gun violence in the city

Following a surge of shooting incidents this year, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (pictured) issued an emergency declaration over gun violence in the city

Oregon was the first state in the United States to decriminalize possession of personal-use amounts of heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, oxycodone, and other drugs after voters approved a ballot measure in 2020 to decriminalize hard drugs.

A person found with personal amounts of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other drugs receives a citation, like a traffic ticket, with the maximum $100 fine waived if they call a hotline for a health assessment.

The state’s program, which has been promoted as a way to establish and fund addiction recovery centers that would offer people aid instead of incarceration, is being watched as a potential model for other states. 

But drug overdose deaths in the state also hit an all-time high in 2021 with 1069, a 41 percent increase from 2020, Fox News reported. 

And along with a rise in overdoses, crime also saw a spike in Portland, with police reporting a 23.4 percent rise in overall crime in the first half of the year compared to the same time in 2021. 

Robbery is up 51 percent, and although homicides fell by 12.2 percent, the  number of shooting incidents reported in the city as of June was at 670, prompting Mayor Ted Wheeler to issue an emergency declaration over gun violence in the city.

Lori Lightfoot has been partially blamed for the rise in crime in Chicago after initially backing calls to defund the police

Lori Lightfoot has been partially blamed for the rise in crime in Chicago after initially backing calls to defund the police

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Detroit stood as having the fourth worst downtown in the U.S. at 42 percent activity compared to 2019, with Chicago following at 43 percent. 

The Windy City is among several cities across the US to be hit by rampant shoplifting, and even its Magnificent Mile, the once highly-populated retail destination, is now dotted with empty storefronts as businesses are being driven away by the brazen thieves.

Observers have pinned some of the blame on Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who backed calls to defund the police in the wake of BLM protests in 2020 before u-turning after a Chicago policewoman was shot dead.

Others have pinned blame on District Attorney Kim Foxx, who was widely accused of meddling in the Jussie Smollett case, after she stopped pursuing shoplifters who stole less than $1,000.

Shoplifting cases grew more common following a December 2016 motion from Foxx that mandated Chicago prosecutors only issue felony charges for the theft of property over $1,000.

Woke but NOT broke: San Fran’s Mayor London Breed was paid $351,000 last year – double the average city employee’s salary and nearly $100,000 more than NYC Mayor Eric Adams

San Francisco’s mayor was paid $351,000 in 2021, the most in the nation, despite the city’s leading crime rate among major metropolitan areas.

Mayor London Breed’s generous compensation makes her the highest-earning mayor in the US, even though San Francisco is just the 17th largest city by population.

Last year, Breed out-earned her counterparts in the nation’s biggest cities, making nearly $100,000 more than New York City Mayor Eric Adam is expected to earn this year. 

Breed’s salary was also more than double the average San Francisco city employee’s salary of $127,000 for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, according to data compiled by The San Francisco Chronicle.

However, Breed was not the highest-paid city employee in San Francisco last year, a distinction that went to the city pension fund’s chief investment officer, who earned $601,610. 

Mayor London Breed, pictured, was paid $351,000 in 2021, more than double the salary of the average worker employed by the city

Mayor London Breed, pictured, was paid $351,000 in 2021, more than double the salary of the average worker employed by the city

Last year, San Francisco's mayor made more than the top elected officials in the five largest US cities. San Francisco is ranked 17th in the country based on population

Last year, San Francisco’s mayor made more than the top elected officials in the five largest US cities. San Francisco is ranked 17th in the country based on population

It comes after Breed performed a dramatic U-turn on her ‘defund the police’ strategy as she called for ‘more aggressive policing’ to crack down on rampant crime.

According to the latest available national data, San Francisco has the highest overall crime rate of the 20 largest cities in the United States. 

The Golden Gate City recorded 6,917 crimes per 100,000 population in 2019, according to the latest available FBI Unified Crime Report.

That was more than double the crime rates in New York and Los Angeles, and well above the rates in the next largest US cities: Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix. 

US crime rates have increased in most cities since the FBI’s last national report, but the federal report provides the most consistent basis for comparison. 

Breed had previously demanded cities defund the police last year, announcing that San Francisco would be one of the first to do so and promising to slice $120million from the budgets of its police and sheriff’s departments.

But Breed made a screeching U-turn and announced she was asking the city’s Board of Supervisors for more money to be given to the police to stamp out drug dealing, car break-ins, and theft. 

San Francisco has the highest overall crime rate of the 20 largest cities in the United States, easily exceeding the crime rates of the five largest cities (seen above)

San Francisco has the highest overall crime rate of the 20 largest cities in the United States, easily exceeding the crime rates of the five largest cities (seen above)

Announcing a crime crackdown, she argued that San Francisco officers should get aggressive and ‘less tolerant of all the bulls*** that has destroyed our city’, as she went back on her plans to defund the police.

‘It’s time the reign of criminals who are destroying our city, it is time for it to come to an end,’ she said. ‘And it comes to an end when we take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement, more aggressive with the changes in our policies.’ 

Breed called for progressive policies that have allowed criminal behavior to make a mockery of the city’s famed tolerance and compassion to be replaced with ‘more aggressive policing.’

Breed said she plans to introduce legislation that allows law enforcement officers real-time access to surveillance video in certain situations, as well as measures that would make it harder to sell stolen goods. 

Her comments were a complete U-turn from last year, when she announced plans to redirect $120million from the police department to a combination of new and existing programs for the African-American community. 

The movement to defund the police picked up steam during 2020’s protests following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. 

But as she called to redirect funds away from the police toward community ventures, it was revealed the city spent $2.6million on her security detail in 2020.

San Francisco spent $12.4million to protect Breed between 2015 and 2020, with the bill rising from $1.7million in 2015 to $2.6 million last year, according to information obtained by public transparency website Openthebooks.com and compiled by Forbes.

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