East St. Louis, Illinois

A City Without Bootstraps In this place, the hottest ticket is a ticket to somewhere else

In the seamy Mississippi River city of East St. Louis, Ill., the grim local joke is that the crime rate is finally starting to level off because there's not much left to steal. Block after city block is boarded up or burned out. Many buildings have been reduced to rubble as thieves cart away everything of value: bricks, aluminum siding, copper wire, even heavy cast-iron manhole covers from the potholed streets to be sold for scrap. The housing authority complains that aluminum downspouts are swiped from its buildings within hours of installation. Trash-strewn vacant lots along the river stand in stark...

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