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Milwaukee Sees Alarming Spike In Homicide Rate

Jalisa Martin shows a photo of her brother, Winfred Jackson Jr., who was fatally shot at in Washington Park of Milwaukee in March 2020.
Sara Stathas
The L.A. Times
Jalisa Martin shows a photo of her brother, Winfred Jackson Jr., who was fatally shot in Washington Park of Milwaukee in March 2020.

Across the nation, there's been a spike in homicides. This trend is especially true in Milwaukee, where homicides jumped by 93% from 2019 to 2020. 189 people were killed, the most ever recorded and the trend continues in 2021.

There are no clear answers, but Los Angeles Time's National Correspondent, Kurtis Lee looked into the trend. He spoke to Milwaukeeans affected by the ongoing violence.

>> On the front lines of the U.S. homicide epidemic: Milwaukee faces historic violence

Lee explains, "This spike that Milwaukee saw — the percent increase — was larger than Chicago, than New York, than Los Angeles. So I wanted to go to Milwaukee to understand what is going on in these neighborhoods, and why is this city facing this massive surge in violence?"

Lee found that the majority of the violence has taken place on Milwaukee's north side — in predominately Black neighborhoods.

"And I mean, these neighborhoods have seen a deep-rooted racism that has led to neglect and poverty on the north side," Lee says. "And these are the reasons behind why the city is facing a surge in only certain parts of the city."

He spoke with several people impacted by the violence like a family member of a homicide victim, a funeral director, a homicide detective from the Milwaukee Police Department, and a violence interrupter. Lee says some factors contributing to the spike could include more guns on the streets, lack of resources, and the pandemic.

"I think definitely the pandemic and the stress from the pandemic was critical to seeing these rise in homicides. I mean, a lot of the schools were closed for much of the past year," Lee says. "A lot of the homicide victims were much younger. And that kind of accounted for some of this rise."

In addition, Lee says homicides are not being solved at the same rate as they have in the past by Milwaukee police. While Lee was in Milwaukee, he met with Jalisa Martin whose brother, Winfred Jackson Jr., was shot in Washington Park in March 2020. Martin is frustrated her brother's case has not been solved.

"You know, Jalisa really, her brother's case kind of fits into that situation in terms of you know, not being solved, not being cleared. And she really is seeking justice for her brother," Lee explains.

In 2020, police in Milwaukee solved 58% of the homicides committed, which was down from 68% in 2019. So far this year, the rate is 34%.

From Lee's perspective, social programs are a crucial way to address the rising crime rate. One solution he suggests is encouraging more violence interrupters or people looking to ease the tension in neighborhoods.

"Those programs are definitely critical to help solve and reduce homicides in cities throughout this country," Lee says.

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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