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Putting crime data from the 53206 zip code in context

Posted at 9:09 PM, Sep 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-13 22:10:34-04

MILWAUKEE — There is one zip code in Milwaukee that politicians often use to make a point about crime, education, or the challenges facing the city.

But does it distort what's happening in that neighborhood? PolitiFact Wisconsin checks out the numbers.

The Milwaukee Zip Code 5-3-2-0-6 has been the subject of documentaries after gaining the reputation for the high number of residents in prison.

"53206 - a zip code on the northside of Milwaukee is often termed the most incarcerated in the state, sometimes most incarcerated in the nation or even the world," said Greg Borowski with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin looked at the Department of Corrections numbers. The 53206 claim grew out of 2013 report by UWM professors who looked at Workforce Development.

As of June of 2019, the 53206 zip code did have the highest numbers with just under 600 inmates.

53206 (Milwaukee near north side): 598 inmates
53209 (Milwaukee north side/Thurston Woods): 572
53208 (Milwaukee west side/Miller Valley): 467
53204 (Milwaukee near south side/Walker's Point): 452
53210 (Milwaukee west side/Sherman Park): 451

"If you look that strictly by raw numbers 53206 comes out on top but that doesn't account for they face that its such a large densely populated zip code," said Borowski.

But look at what happens when you look at the number of inmates based on a percentage of zip code population - 53206 drops to fourth - a zip code in Northwest Wisconsin Ashland County is number one.

54861 (Northwest Wisconsin/Ashland County): 92 adults, 8 incarcerations, population proportion 8.70%
53702 (Madison/Dane County): 26 adults, 2 incarcerations, population proportion 7.69%
53203 (Milwaukee/Kilbourn Town): 1,320 adults, 53 incarcerations, population proportion 4.02%
53206 (Milwaukee near north side): 16,324 adults, 598 incarcerations, population proportion 3.66%

So what's the bottom line?

"Be wary when you hear claims like this that are so stark and certain because there's often a lot more nuisance to it," said Borowski.

PolitiFact Wisconsin did not rate this claim but wanted to provide context to the incarceration numbers.