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'Who is not frustrated?': Non-fatal shootings and homicides on pace for another record year in Milwaukee

Posted at 5:26 PM, Mar 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-21 19:25:58-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee police say several shootings over the weekend in Milwaukee left seven people injured and one dead.

On average, MPD data shows more than two people have been shot each day in Milwaukee this year. While homicide rates have doubled compared to this time last year, non-fatal shootings are also trending in the wrong direction.

As an activist who works at the grassroots level, Tracey Dent can’t recall a time when gun violence has been worse in the city he calls home.

“Who is not frustrated? Who is not angry?” Dent said. “It's sad that we as parents don't even feel safe in our own homes, because bullets come through the house."

So far in 2022, Milwaukee has recorded 146 non-fatal shootings, which is up from 131 during the same time period last year, and 75 through March 21, 2020.

"We can't say, 'well, at least they didn't die.' No, they got shot,” Dent said. “ They are just as important as someone losing their life because you don't know what kind of scar, what kind of mental issues they're going to have after this."

Jamaal Smith with Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention believes the pandemic has been the biggest factor behind the increase in gun violence over the past two years. He says it’s caused mental, emotional and financial stresses on those who were already living in poverty.

"What we're seeing is essentially a lot of people operating out of hurt, out of pain, out of anger, out of frustration in terms of where our society is, where our city is, and we're really in a position right now a silo-ed approach to prevention is no longer an option,” he said.

When asked what solutions the Office of Violence Prevention is bringing to the table to cut down on shootings, Smith responded, “It's building partnerships which is our mission, to prevent and reduce violence through partnerships that support youth, family and neighborhoods."

While the Office of Violence Prevention works with victims and their families to connect them with resources to recover and prevent retaliation, it also has a program to protect witnesses who come forward by getting them into safe housing. Smith says the number of tips used to solve crimes are not keeping pace with historic gun violence.

"If you see something say something, we always encourage people to do that,” Smith said. “We always talk to MPD who says we can't move unless we know, but that's the same thing with everyone else."

Milwaukee Police Department data shows just 30 percent of non-fatal shootings have been solved this year. That’s down from 44 percent during the same time period last year, and 66 percent in 2020.

Dent says witnesses need to feel comfortable providing anonymous tips, but he understands why there are concerns.

"There's a lot of people who are afraid to speak up,” he said. “That's why we're asking people to intervene before the violence or the crime happens because that's the only way we're going to start reducing the violence in our community."

Milwaukee Crime Stoppers takes anonymous tips 24/7. The organization says it receives about 100 tips a month, but that’s for all types of crimes, not just shootings. Milwaukee Crime Stoppers says tips they’ve received have been used to help solve two Milwaukee murders in the past two years.

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