Citing an overall decrease in crime, Police Chief Alfonso Morales said Milwaukee is a safer city than it was a year ago.
But the decrease means little to residents in neighborhoods disproportionately affected by crime, including homicides and non-fatal shootings, Morales said.
“We are in this together and I need your help,” Morales said at a news conference detailing the challenges faced by the police department when he succeeded former Chief Edward Flynn in February and the successes it has achieved since.
An ACLU lawsuit alleging stop-and-frisk practices targeting African-Americans and Latinos, the high-profile tasing of Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown and a spike in violent crime, including a 40 percent rise in carjackings, were some of the issues he inherited when he became chief, Morales said.
By the end of the year, homicides decreased 16 percent, and non-fatal shootings dropped 15 percent, from 558 in 2017 to 475, Morales said.
According to data maintained by the Journal Sentinel, homicides declined from 119 in 2017 to 101 in 2018.
But even with a citywide homicide rate of 17 per 100,000 residents, neighborhoods such as Harambee, where the rate is 85 per 100,000, Arlington Heights with 125 per 100,000 and Garden Homes with 209 per 100,000 — 12 times higher than the city average — show there is much work to be done, Morales said.
“Education levels, poverty, drug addiction, (lack of) job opportunity and housing availability are some of the many factors that directly affect crime but are firmly outside the purview of police,” Morales said.
There were also 2,138 fewer shots-fired alerts in areas covered by the department’s ShotSpotter system in 2018, a 24 percent decrease from 2017, and carjackings finished the year with a 7 percent decline from the previous year, the chief said.
Officers recovered 141 more guns than last year and the 2,490 evidence guns that were recovered were 70 more than the total amount of guns recovered in 2016.
The chief also cited his promise to release limited police body camera video from officer-involved shootings within 45 days of the incident, and three “community briefings” in which video was released, as evidence of the department transparency he promised when he was appointed chief.
Jarrett English, a member of the Milwaukee’s African American Roundtable, which has been critical of department practices, said the organization is encouraged by Morales’ steps toward transparency.
But English, who attended Thursday’s news conference and spoke on behalf of roundtable director Markasa Tucker, told the Journal Sentinel that community engagement must be based upon respect from rank-and-file officers toward citizens.
He agreed with Morales that the serious social problems facing Milwaukee cannot be solved by police.
English also called for a significant portion of the police department’s budget to be reallocated to the city’s Office of Violence Prevention, “so that all the challenges Milwaukee faces … can start to be addressed with the resources they require.”
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