East St. Louis, Il., is best known for the perception that you don’t want to be there after dark unless you’re looking for trouble, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The most recent headlines are almost too gruesome to believe. A woman allegedly cut a fetus out of her good friend and left the friend to bleed to death. Then, police say, the suspect led them to the bodies of her friend’s three children, found stuffed in a washer and dryer. Police say they had been drowned.
It’s far from the first time the national spotlight has shined to reveal the city’s dark side. Race riots in 1917 have left deep pocks in the city’s landscape and given residents a wary eye on outsiders. In the 1950s, the population was 82,000. Now it is believed to be under 30,000. “The headlines we see today are not all that different than they were in the paper 50, 75 or 100 years ago,” said Southern Illinois University Edwardsville political science professor Andrew Theising. “East St. Louis is exactly what it was designed to be – a city that was designed to facilitate profit, both legal and illegal.”