MILWAUKEE — As the City of Milwaukee deals with a rise in violent crime, police are honing in on partnerships and adding patrols in an effort to decrease the gun violence.
Police data shows that since 2020, nonfatal shootings are up 96 percent and homicides with guns are up 125 percent from 2019 to 2021.
Just recently police released the 2022 Milwaukee Police Department Community Report laying out strategies and initiatives.
“We are utilizing Shot Spotter, utilizing squads, so we can be engaged in real-time responses to the challenges in our city,” said Milwaukee Police Chief Jeff Norman during a news conference on the report.
But what is making a difference and are the current efforts enough? We go 360, looking at multiple sides of the issue, by talking to Milwaukee Police on their plans to battle the rising crime numbers; community groups on how they are working to get ahead of conflicts; and a community member and an activist who say more needs to be done. That is where we begin.
"It’s scary to go out. I don’t think anyone’s doing enough. I think it’s getting worse, and I feel like some of us are kind of alone. You have to deal with it alone,” said Mireya Davila, who lives in Milwaukee.
Meanwhile community activist Tracy Dent, who often holds rallies to get people to put down their guns, says police need to be more engaged.
"Get out of the car, get off the bikes, walk the beats and getting to know the community and maybe, just maybe, the community will start trusting them more - because they know who they are,” said Dent.
Chief Norman says he’s adding extra police patrols to neighborhoods across the city this summer, particularly those that are seeing more crime. Those neighborhoods are Arlington Heights, Franklin Heights, Garden Homes, Harambee, Hampton Heights, Lincoln Creek, Metcalfe Park, North Division, Old North Milwaukee, Park West, Roosevelt Grove, Sherman Park, Silver Spring, Walker’s Point and Washington Park.
“We have high frequency neighborhoods where we are going to put those resources in, in collaboration with our partners, in collaboration with the community, of being proactive of those people who are bringing violence to our neighborhoods,” said Norman.
Some of those partners include Running Rebels, a non-profit that mentors children including those in the juvenile justice system. The program has been around since the 1980s, using basketball to keep teens from choosing violence. Co-executive director Dawn Barnett says in Milwaukee, having someone a child can talk to is one of the most important steps in preventing violence.
“When things aren’t going well or if you make a mistake, who is the one person you can go to? And it's scary to hear a lot of young people say, 'I don’t know who that is,'” said Barnett.
Running Rebels says it helps to give children someone they can talk to. It currently mentors 2,500 children a year and focuses on accountability and positive decision making.
"We help them come up with what is called thought busters. It's something you tell yourself. So when the situation comes, you think about who looks up to. Coping ahead for those situations that are yet to come and if they don't come, great, but if they do come then you're armed with something,” said Barnett.
As that group focuses mainly on teens, the Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention, 414Life looks to break up arguments with their violence interrupters.
"I know what it's like to get shot. I know what it's like to get beat up. I know all of that,” said Ray Mendoza, who is a violence interrupter for 414Life.
He served 17 years in federal prison. Mendoza now works as a violence interrupter: they mediate conflicts on the street. He says it is hard to count the number of shootings that did not happen because of their work. Ray lets people know their lives matter.
"When I tell these guys, 'I don't even know you, but I love you,' I'm not lying to them,” said Mendoza. "If they don't love themselves, it's not gonna help them at all.”
Chief Norman says he needs everyone’s help to drive down crime, and the police department is interested in hearing from the community about how officers can make a difference.
“If you see something that we should be working on more, we are all ears. There is always opportunities to improve. Crime is fluid, the dynamics in our city is fluid, we should also be fluid with it,” said Norman.
The Milwaukee Police Department will be hosting town hall events to get feedback from the community on how it can improve. According to MPD, there will be meetings in each aldermanic district. So far they have not been scheduled.