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'It’s tragic and it’s heartbreaking': Rise in Milwaukee violence points to questions about prevention

Posted at 5:29 PM, Oct 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 19:22:01-04

MILWAUKEE — The rash of violence in Milwaukee on Wednesday is just the latest in this troubling year.

As people across the city work to bring calm, they say investments in community-based efforts need to continue and grow.

"It’s tragic and it’s heartbreaking and it should be disheartening. It’s disgusting to us as a city," said Reggie Moore, Director of Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention.

Moore's team works to disrupt violence from every angle. Their scheduled update before the Milwaukee Public Safety and Health Committee came amid growing concern about crime.

"This year has been unprecedented. We definitely have seen spikes in shootings but this is something that is beyond a state of emergency and we have to act like it," said Moore.

Moore reported the city saw a decline in homicides and non-fatal shootings between 2016-2019 only to be met with 2020, a year packed with a series of tragic events including the mass shooting at Molson Coors in February.

He added the pandemic has exacerbated existing strains on the community which has also led to more violence and Milwaukee is not alone.

"When we look at the economic impact that COVID has had, when we look at unemployment, when we look at evictions, housing insecurity, and food insecurity all of those things contribute to the stress, tensions, and pressure that increase risk for violence. Not a guarantee that it’ll occur but we understand the psychological impact that that’s having," said Moore.

The violence is also exposing existing disparities.

"It’s really just kind of a crisis on top of a crisis," said Reggie Jackson, a local historian.

African Americans make up 27 percent of Milwaukee County and 39 percent of the City of Milwaukee.

However, data shows African Americans are the large majority of victims in homicides and non-fatal shootings.

"People who are the most marginalized in a community tend to be the ones who are victimized by crime at the highest rate, and that’s no different here in the United States than it is in any other country. That’s part of the challenge is that we have here in Milwaukee," said Jackson.

Moore said amid the rise in violence his office is working smarter with data, building relationships with families impacted, and trying to stop retaliation.

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