Posts tagged “Milwaukee Homicide Commission

Cities Looking to Milwaukee for Answers Need to Check the Right Places

As far as criminology is concerned, we live in interesting times.  While cities like New York and Milwaukee are experiencing significant decreases in crime, political leaders in Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans are searching for answers.

In Chicago, the 2011 homicide clearance rate was just 30 percent.[1] In some police districts on the Windy City’s south and west sides, the crime rate has skyrocketed to the point where Mayor Rahm Emanuel has asked for and is receiving assistance from federal law enforcement agencies.[2]

While the population of New Orleans is about half that of Milwaukee’s its homicide rate is more than double that of the brew city’s.[3] Yet New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu—a member of a family long associated with the Louisiana’s Democrat Party machine—is making a mistake by looking to Milwaukee’s Homicide Review Commission for answers. In about an hour, a solid Milwaukee street cop could reach the same conclusions as this commission and save taxpayers $500,000. Instead, Mayor Landrieu should take an in-depth look at the Milwaukee Police Department’s—past and present—policing strategies.

Historically, many of Milwaukee’s policing strategies are very similar to those of New York City’s, where both crime and incarceration rates have declined—the ultimate win-win for victims and taxpayers. In his book, The City that Became Safe, Franklin Zimring notes, “The 20-year adventure in New York City, was, to be sure, a demonstration project of effective policing, but it was much more than that. It was a demonstration that individual and aggregate crime rates can change substantially over time without removing or incarcerating a larger number of active offenders.”[4]

So what is driving crime rates down in New York City while incarceration rates are also decreasing? Zimring believes it is the NYPD’s aggressive stop and frisk policing model.

Regardless of what Milwaukee Magazine claims[5], the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) has had a long history of proactive policing programs.  In the early 1990s, District Two initiated a highly successful Directed Patrol Mission (DPM) to suppress gang activity. In the late 1990s, District Five used its neighborhood patrol staff to target drug and gang activity. In 1996, the old Gang Crimes Unit, which comprised just 3.3 percent of the MPD’s complement of sworn personnel, took over 3,100 guns off the street, while the Vice Control Division targeted drug dealers citywide. Around the turn of the century, District Three’s special units dramatically reduced violent crime in the Metcalfe Park area.

Retired Milwaukee Police Department Captain Glenn Frankovis had an active hand in many of these district initiatives, long before university professors deemed aggressive proactive policing strategies hip-and-trendy.  Police can disrupt violent crime through policing strategies that hobble criminal organizations with a thousand cuts. Like any legitimate business, if key personnel of a criminal gang are unavailable an organization’s effectiveness decreases.

Yet long-term incarceration rates do have an overall affect on the violent crime rate. This is where criminologists, prosecutors, judges and law enforcement officials need to have a serious discussion about what type of individuals occupy prison beds.  While the U.S. accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, America incarcerates 25 percent of the entire world’s inmates.[6] With the federal government running trillion dollar annual deficits and many state budgets in tatters, public safety officials need to ensure that prison beds be reserved for violent offenders, which should include those who traffic hard drugs.

A 1994 study of the prison population notes that “over half the offenders” sent to Wisconsin prisons each year committed property offenses.[7] Many of these offenders receive prison sentences for crimes committed in low-crime jurisdictions, which means other, more violent offenders get released to half-way houses or other non-traditional prison settings to make room for property offenders.

While officials in Detroit, Chicago, and New Orleans continue to scratch their heads, all Wisconsin needs is a little tweaking.

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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 www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012


[1] “Only 30 Percent of Last Year’s Murders have been Solved.” CBSChicago.com, January 25, 2012. 10             Feb. 2012. http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/01/25/only-30-percent-of-last-years-murders-have- been-solved/

[2] “Federal Agents to Assist Police in Fighting Crime on South, West Side.” CBSChicago.com, February 10,    2012. 10 Feb. 2012.  http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/02/10/federal-agents-to-assist-police-in- fighting-crime-on-south-west-side/

[3] “Mayor Landrieu Unveils Plan to Reduce Murder Rate.” wwltv.com. November 22, 2011. 10 Feb. 2012. http://www.wwltv.com/news/crime/Mayor-Landrieu-Unveils-Plan-to-Reduce-Murder-Rate-134362043.html

[4] Zimring, Franklin E. The City that Became Safe, New York, NY. Oxford Press, 2012.

[5] Bamberger, Tom.  “Street Smarts.” InsideMilwaukee.com. January 23, 2012.  10 Feb. 2012.                 http://www.insidemilwaukee.com/Article/1232012-StreetSmarts

[6] Talvi, Silja J.A. (2007). Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S Prison System. Los    Angles. California: Seal Press. pp. xv.

[7] DiIjlio, John & Mitchell, George. “Who Really Goes to Prison in Wisconsin.” The Wisconsin Policy Institute Inc. Milwaukee, WI, April 1996.