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U.S. Attorney concerned about outbreak of violence in Milwaukee

"Everybody should be focused on this."
Posted at 10:52 AM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 13:01:08-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee is on pace to break a horrifying record, and it could happen in just a matter of weeks. 2020 could be the worst year ever for homicides. The Federal Government is increasingly worried about violent crime problem in Milwaukee, and offering collaborative resources through Operation Legend.

1991 is the worst year on record for murders in Milwaukee, with 165 people killed. As of the beginning of this week, Milwaukee Police say there have been 155 homicides, well on pace to break the record.

“I think as we look at the violent crime that's facing Milwaukee, everybody should be focused on this. It's off the charts,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Krueger said in an interview this week. He’s the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, and points to a series of factors colliding in tragic fashion to cause the unprecedented number of murders.

“Certainly we think the pandemic, economic insecurity, reduced respect for law enforcement and the prevalence of firearms are all contributing factors,” Krueger said. “I also point to drug trafficking.”

Krueger estimates up to a third of violent crimes in the City also include a domestic violence component, and they’re some of the toughest crimes to prosecute. “Domestic Violence cases are particularly difficult, because victims are often intimidated, and unwilling to help support charges,” Krueger suggested.

The Department of Justice, through Operation Legend, is bringing resources to Milwaukee to help in the fight against violent crime. Among the things the funding will provide, according to Krueger, is an additional witness coordinator in the local District Attorney’s Office. That person will help victims who are willing to come forward.

It's the type of investment some protesters appear to be calling for as they ask for new ways to bring about safer communities.

Krueger agrees it’s an important component, though suggests it must be in conjunction with, not instead of, cops on the streets.

“I think we have to be really clear about this. If we don't have vigorous law enforcement, part of the solution, we won't have the opportunity to bring in jobs. We won't have the opportunity for schools to be successful, if the neighborhoods are racked by gun violence. You have to have a certain level of stability for other social investments to be successful.”

In terms of prosecution, Krueger says the key to Federal involvement is guns. If his investigators can prove a federal gun charge, that’s where his office can be most aggressive.