Police tape

Milwaukee’s crime rate is steadily decreasing, according to city officials. Over the last five years, the city has seen a 33 percent reduction in violent crime including homicides, nonfatal shootings, and carjackings. But the city still has work to do.

The city is putting its primary focus on decreasing the homicides rate. By collecting and analyzing data going back as far as five years, the city identified what they think is the root cause of violent crime, domestic violence and gun violence.

In 2015, there were 145 victims of homicides in the city of Milwaukee. In 2016, that number only fell by four. By 2017, the city saw a dramatic decline in homicides with 119 victims. By 2018, homicides decreased into double digits with 99 victims and in 2019 Milwaukee had 97 homicides.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said during a Monday press conference at Milwaukee City Hall that it has been a collaborative effort between multiple departments and organizations to decrease violence in the city.

"That is something that we can be proud of but proud in a very serious way," Barrett said, "Our work is not anywhere, anywhere, anywhere close to being done."

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales, Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing, Milwaukee’s Commissioner of Health Jeanette Kowalik, director of the city’s Office of Violence Prevention Reggie Moore, and members from the organization 414 Life, joined Barrett for the press conference.

Morales said 40 percent of the city's gun violence is in 14 neighborhoods.

"So what can we do if we really want to see a continued drop in crime?" Morales asked hypothetically. "It's not necessarily in services but identifying better ways to bring education and better our education and economy in those neighborhoods."

Morales said there is a role for everyone to play to ensure those 14 neighborhoods have the tools to change.

"The strategy is working," Morales said. "But we have a long way to go."

The police department has been using what Morales calls a "strategic approach" called the Shoot Review Model. The Shoot Review Model is an intelligence-led, data-driven, violence reducing strategy that collaborates law enforcement, researchers, and community partners every time a shooting occurs in the city.

Despite the improvement to violent crime, Milwaukee is still struggling to curb reckless driving. Seventy-five people were killed in Milwaukee County last year from a motor vehicle accident, according to previous reporting from WPR.

The city has seen numerous reckless driving fatalities from hit and runs to vehicles hitting trees or poles at high rates of speed. Morales said reckless driving is something the department is seeing more frequently but there is slight progress.

"By not addressing driving issues in the past, we’ve allowed it as a city to get out of control," Morales said. "To bring it back into control it’s going to take some time, even though I’m telling you we are seeing progress, it’s not enough to boast."

The city has also seen a decrease in other violent crime like non-fatal shootings and carjackings. Nonfatal shootings decreased from 558 in 2017 to 476 in 2018, last year’s data was unavailable. Carjackings in the city decreased from 383 in 2018 to 346 in 2019.

Barrett said during the press conference that Milwaukee has been listed as one of the country's most dangerous cities, but because of the decline in crime, that may not be the case anymore.

"In 2015, Milwaukee was considered one of the top 10 most dangerous cities in the country," Barrett said. "Not something that anyone here wants to be a part of."

Barrett continued to say that in 2018, Milwaukee dropped to the 17th most dangerous city.

"I would rather be number 117, but we have to acknowledge as we make progress, going from the top 10 to 17 is a significant change," he said.

But the city was still ranked in the top 10 according to reports from 24/7 Wall Street and Safe Wise.

Barrett claims that Milwaukee has seen the largest reduction in homicides compared to St. Louis, Detroit, Memphis, Chicago, and New Orleans.

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2020, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.

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