Murder by the Numbers

Some homicide numbers from 2006 to 2011 spotlight things worth noting.

If you are a killer and want to get away with murder, you may want to set-up shop in Chicago.  WBBM radio reports that the Windy City’s homicide clearance rate was just 30 percent in 2011. If you think this number is horrific, it is a seven percent improvement from 2010, when investigators cleared only 28 percent of Chicago murders.

A cynic might claim that Chicago’s homicide clearance rate has declined as a direct result of a mandate requiring videotaped confessions.  SF’s post concerning former Chicago PD police commander Jon Burge’s interrogation techniques might, in part, explain the significant drop in clearance rates there—down from 80 percent in 1991.

The city of Milwaukee reported 84 homicides in 2011. Sources claim the clearance rate was near 70 percent, which means 26 killers remain at-large to reoffend.  From 1990-1999, Milwaukee homicides claimed the lives of 1,432—an average of 143.2 a year.

Milwaukee’s homicide clearance rate from 1990-1999 was an astonishing 84 percent, which meant, on average, 23 killers remained at large in any given year.  As such, even though Milwaukee’s homicide rate per capita has declined, the number of killers at large in 2011 compared to the average in the 1990s has increased 13 percent.

To get an idea how Milwaukee homicides stack-up, no pun intended, against other areas of Wisconsin consider these numbers as the concealed carry permits arrive in the mail:

  • In 2008, Milwaukee County experienced 74 homicides, causing public officials to laud the decrease. 
  • In 2008, Dane County’s homicide rate soared to 11—a 63.5 percent increase from 2006.   
  • These 2008 numbers indicate that a Milwaukee County resident is 330 percent more likely to fall victim to homicide than one in Dane County.  
  • In 2008, the total numbers of homicides in Eau Claire, Brown, Washington, Waukesha, Qzaukee, and Sheboygan counties totaled just nine.  
  • In 2008, Milwaukee comprised 11.6 percent of Wisconsin’s population, but accounted for 48.6 percent of the state’s homicides.  


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective.

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012

11 Responses

  1. Glenn Frankovis

    Steve, you just don’t get it, do you? “Crime is down”! Superman has arrived and brought the Milwaukee P.D. out of the stone age.

    January 29, 2012 at 6:11 pm

  2. Glenn Frankovis

    and don’t forget that $600,000 Homicide Review Commission headed up by another east coast genius. You know, the one that came up with all that “useful” information to include where violent crime is most likely to occur. For the price of a cup of coffee, any good street cop that I’ve ever known or worked with could tell you just about everything that came out of the HRC.

    January 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm

  3. Larry

    Hey Glenn. I think you’re talking about that article in Milwaukee Magazine. Almost made me sick. Like cops just sat in the district waiting to answer the radio before Flynn arrived. The guy who wrote it obviously never talked to any REAL Milwaukee coppers. What about district special men? what about the vice squad? what about the gang squad, what about the 700? What about the gang squad under Sincere? No, only Flynn had a plan for proactive policing.

    January 29, 2012 at 8:13 pm

  4. Glenn Frankovis

    Yup Larry, almost everything he claims to have brought to Milwaukee was already being done in one way or another. I was doing daily Crime Analysis when nobody had even heard about Flynn. While at #3, we established lines of communication with the good people in the various neighborhoods that greatly assisted us during our planning and operations and helped us focus on bad guys with laser-like precision. All the while we were providing the good people with the services they had every right to expect from us. That’s how you build trust & confidence with the good people, and that’s what leads to them calling and telling you what’s going on in their neighborhoods that a couple trips up and down their streets during an 8 hour shift will never reveal.

    January 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm

  5. Jon Osowski

    Don’t forget Glenn was a big backer of Flynn when he was attempting to get the job and early on;(check badger blogger archives) then he flip flopped to a critic, the 2008 numbers are a result to some effect of the gang squad, intell, vice, hidta, MCSO grip unit, all working at the max executing 1000’s of search warrants putting pressure on the worst of the worst violators and putting those offenders in prison for 2-4 years on strong good cases, all of that is gone. Glenn didn’t like that because it was under Nan’s watch, and beacause he thought the gang squad didn’t share intell, a number of tough homicde cases were cleared by sharing information working together with the gang squad arrestees, informants, and working with homicde detectives. One of my proudest moments was after the terrible DCI agents murder working under Spingola’s directives developing information.


    January 29, 2012 at 10:06 pm

  6. This is fascinating data. I’m a little confused on a couple of points though. You write that: “WBBM radio reports that the Windy City’s homicide clearance rate was just 30 percent in 2011. If you think this number is horrific, it is a seven percent improvement from 2010, when investigators cleared only 28 percent of Chicago murders.” Am I missing some numbers? It seems that the 2010-2011 Chicago clearance rate sees only a 2% improvement.

    I also have a question regarding the statement that, “The city of Milwaukee reported 84 homicides in 2011. Sources claim the clearance rate was near 70 percent, which means 26 killers remain at-large to reoffend.” Your basic numbers seem about right to me, assuming three points with the data: 1) Each unsolved homicide was committed by only one person, 2) None of the unsolved crimes were committed by the same perpetrator, and 3) None of the unsolved crimes were committed by someone who committed another crime for which he has been convicted and jailed. In your experience, are most Milwaukee homicides committed by a single person who is likely to reoffend if he is not caught and brought to justice?

    January 29, 2012 at 10:21 pm

  7. Glenn Frankovis

    We did all this and more at District #3 2002-2003, and it was Chief Arthur Jones who introduced Crime Analysis to the Milwaukee Police Department very shortly after he was appointed Chief. Back then we met weekly, but some of us actually prepared daily and could tell you exactly what happened up to the hour and sometimes more timely than that. Preemptive policing was also a hallmark of our policing strategy at #3 with our frequent Street Sweeper operations. As for “developing trust and confidence” in the neighborhoods, Flynn is on the right track but not yet where we were while I was at #3. I don’t know how one builds trust and confidence when the policy is that people can wait for cops like they do for cable or furniture delivery. Maybe the guy who conducted this interview and wrote the article for Milwaukee Magazine should get out into these neighborhoods and talk to the people living and working there.

    January 29, 2012 at 10:36 pm

  8. Steve Spingola

    Chris, the way I did the math, 2 percent of 28 is 0.56. Seven percent of 28 1.96 (rounded to two, since 1.96 people can’t become victims). As for each of the unsolved homicides being committed by a single person, we do not know. If we did, the cases would be classified as cleared. My suggestion was that these killers could reoffend again, what year they did so though, would be up to the perpetrator. Once again, from experience, there are people who commit more than just one homicide. My point is the odds are that a larger number murderers are probably at large today to reoffend than they were in the 1990s, even though the number of actual homicides was higher.

    January 30, 2012 at 12:56 am

  9. Karl

    I frequent the Badger blog site. I remember Glenn supporting some commander from Miami (I believe) for chief in Milwaukee. I forget the circumstances but the Miami guy was ticked off because the FPC allowed Flynn to apply after the deadline (I believe from memory). From the Badger site it seems Glenn began distancing himself from Flynn when the detective bureau was marginalized. That is the east coast policing model…supressing crime while clearing fewer of the crimes that take place. That is what happened in New York City and is now going on in Chicago with McCarthy, who was the Newark chief but came from the NPYD command staff. McCarthy is sometimes described as Flynn on steroids. He is hooked up with the same consultants and professors (the ones who were never coppers).

    January 30, 2012 at 1:09 am

  10. Glenn Frankovis

    It’s true that I supported Flynn after Louis Vega pulled his application when the powers that be pulled the rug out from under him. Flynn had the credentials and the talk, and he was the best of the remaining candidates. He did what I would have done in his first year, but it all began to go south starting in his second year when he went way overboard with his drastic reduction of the Detective Bureau and overtime, and I lost confidence in him and wrote as much from then on. Osowski just can’t seem to understand that even after his buddies clued him in, but that’s the way it goes. He needs to talk with Mike, Rick, Paul and Jim again to get his head on straight. Sorry for the distraction guys.

    January 30, 2012 at 2:02 am

  11. Thank you for your explanation and for helping me to understand the data better!

    February 1, 2012 at 4:07 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>