Digital Originals

published : 2023-09-16

Fend for ourselves: Blue city Tiktoker questions choice amid 'historic' crime rise

Blue city crime deters influencer and real estate developer from investing in future projects

A photo of Johnny Youssef standing proudly in front of the run-down church he purchased for restoration. Taken with a Nikon D850.

Johnny Youssef, a viral TikToker documenting his restoration journey of a church in Kansas City, is questioning his decision to invest in the city amidst a rise in crime and theft.

After purchasing a run-down church in 2022 with hopes of restoring it to its former glory, Youssef has faced costly incidents of vandalism, theft, and other crimes.

These incidents have cost him around $60,000, including the replacement of materials and tools, payment for workers to fix damages, lost revenue, and mounting interest on his loans.

Youssef expressed his hesitation to commit to another project in the area unless significant changes are made to address the issues of homelessness and drug problems.

"I probably wouldn't do a project like this again unless I truly see a change," said Youssef.

He believes that until these underlying issues are resolved, it would be risky to invest in urban Kansas City.

Overall reported crime in the city has increased nearly 8% from 2020 to 2022, according to Kansas City Police Department data.

An aerial shot of Kansas City, showcasing its urban landscape. Taken with a DJI Mavic 2 Pro.

Youssef's TikTok videos documenting his restoration progress have garnered millions of views, focusing on construction, renovation plans, and decor.

However, recent incidents of burglary and theft have compelled him to speak out about the challenges he has faced.

Youssef disclosed some of the incidents at the church, including people starting fires on the property, individuals refusing to leave the roof, and equipment being stolen during the day while workers were present.

To combat further crime, Youssef has implemented various security measures, such as hiring an expensive monitoring company and installing an alarm system, temporary fence, lights, and cameras.

Initially, Youssef was lenient with trespassers, as the church had previously offered services for the homeless.

But he soon realized the severity of the situation as incidents escalated, including drug use, debris, and fires on the property.

Youssef shared his frustration with the lack of response from the police, recounting instances where calls went unanswered or his case was not assigned to a detective.

A close-up photo of materials and tools used in the church restoration project. Taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Less than 46% of 911 calls in Kansas City are answered within 15 seconds, according to reports.

Youssef's experiences have led him to question the effectiveness of the city's response to crime.

Despite the challenges, Youssef remains determined to complete the restoration of the church, aiming to have the venue's reception space ready within the next three months and the boutique hotel by next summer.

However, he expressed his reluctance to undertake another project in the urban area of Kansas City unless significant changes are made to address the homelessness and crime issues.

"I really believe in the city and I hope that our leaders and the mayor would really take action," said Youssef.

He emphasized the importance of finding ways to help those in need of assistance get back on their feet rather than enabling a cycle of dependence.

The Kansas City mayor's office did not respond to a request for comment.