Milwaukee’s 2013 Per Capita Murder Rate Worse than Chicago’s

The 2013 Milwaukee homicide numbers are in and they continue to defy a national trend.  While the number of murders in many large cities (i.e., New York and Chicago) ebbed, Milwaukee’s increased by 15 percent.

Statistically, a person in Milwaukee was more likely to become a victim of homicide than an individual in Chicago (see the below chart).   In 2013, the number of homicides in the Windy City fell 17 percent.


City                           Population          Number of Homicides          Ratio

Milwaukee              598,916                  106                                        1:5650

Chicago                   2,714,856               413                                       1:6572


“A fatal shooting on New Year’s Eve and a couple of nonfatal shootings concluded a violent year in Milwaukee,” the first sentence of an article in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, “in which more people were killed by assailants than in any since 2005.”

A New Year’s Day article in the New York Times praised Chicago officials for implementing strategies that reduced the number of dead human bodies at the Cook County morgue.

Sources within the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) point, in part, to Chief Edward Flynn’s administrative strategy, which, they claim, is purposely designed to marginalize the MPD’s Criminal Investigation Bureau (informally known as the Detective Bureau).

“It’s tough to find highly qualified detectives to volunteer to work homicide,” said one high-ranking source.  “Many of the really good detectives have retired or, extremely frustrated, have found a place to lay low until he’s [Flynn] gone.  And those with initiative have their knees cut out from them towards the end of their respective shifts in order keep a lid on overtime.   In the interim, the department, until recently, hadn’t offered a promotional exam for the rank of detective in years.

“Here’s a question the media should ask: why is it that, even though the numbers of some categories of crimes have declined, clearances rates have not? If deterrence — the chance of getting caught — plays a role in the criminal mindset then failing to clear crimes empowers future criminality.”

In the late 1990s, Milwaukee had 300 detectives in its ranks.  Today, the source says, the number of detectives has fallen nearly 35 percent.  This is due, in part, to a shift in administrative philosophy, which now mandates that police officers sent to certain felonies, such as robberies and burglaries, conduct the primary investigation.  In many instances, some detectives claim that, by the time the follow-up reaches their desks, inexperienced officers have inadequately processed the scene or have failed to canvass the area for potential witnesses.

As 2014 unfolds, it will be interesting to see if city officials address the rising murder rate, as well as other issues impacting overall MPD morale.  Absent any pressure from the media, though, it is likely that the status quo will remain unchanged, even as the gang invested city in the corrupt state 90 miles to Milwaukee’s south somehow manages to get a grip on its murder rate.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available in audiobook format at

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2014

2 Responses

  1. Glenn D. Frankovis

    Homicides are not the best indicator of a crime rate, but they are the only numbers that can’t be fudged when a Police Department releases its crime stats to the public. True indicators of the crime rate would be shootings, aggravated batteries, and robberies (armed and strongarm), as those are offenses most likely to impact on random victims at random locations. Of course, those are numbers that can be fudged by statisticians with an agenda.

    Having uniformed first responders investigate major crimes is foolish for all the reasons you state, Steve, but it is also foolish because it greatly reduces response times to calls for service as well as time for Officers to exercise the individual initiative necessary to actually preempt major crime activity by tending to the small violations and doing the job decent folk expect from their police department.

    I have always maintained that good police work necessarily generates overtime. There was fat to be trimmed for sure, but anyone with a good eye could have seen where that fat was and made the adjustments without decimating the CIB in the process and without discouraging good cops from doing their job. I expected more from the “smartest police chief in the country”. Turned out to be a major disappointment.

    January 2, 2014 at 2:27 pm

  2. Steve Spingola


    You’ve knocked it out of the park. Point-by-point everything you mentioned is spot on. I guess one could argue Milwaukee gangbangers are better shots than their colleagues in Chicago. Still, look at how brazen some of these killers are: walking in to an east side George Webb’s, after being asked to leave, with a pistol and shooting a cook for all to see. The thug who committed that homicide certainly wasn’t discouraged by data driven policing.

    January 2, 2014 at 3:00 pm

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>