Milwaukee Mayor Barrett Says Homicides Up 100% Over Last Year
Updated Friday at 5:39 p.m.:
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and other city officials held a press conference Friday to express concern over the city’s troubling increase in violence.
“As of this morning, there have been 86 homicides in the city. Last year on this date, there were 43. Exactly a 100% increase in homicides in the city Milwaukee in one year,” said Barrett.
The Associated Press reported five people died in shootings in Milwaukee within 20 hours between Tuesday night and Wednesday evening, including a 16-year-old girl.
The mayor went on to say that as of Friday, there was a 62% increase in homicides from two years ago.
Reggie Moore, director of the Milwaukee Health Department’s Office of Violence Prevention, said that certain factors have come together to create a perfect storm of increased violence.
“The challenges of food insecurity, housing insecurity, all of those things, increase the tensions in families, and sometimes arguments that would not have ended in violence, end in violence. We also saw a significant increase in gun purchases at the beginning of the (coronavirus) pandemic. So now you have a lot more firearms in homes,” Moore said.
Mayor Barrett said that the Milwaukee Police Department is an integral part of decreasing the city’s violence.
“We have to come together, working with the police to reduce the violence in the city," he said. "And I say that, knowing that this is a time when there is a lot of animosity toward the police. But we have to have our community groups, our religious groups, our police officers band together, we cannot accept this level of violence in this city.”
In response to a question about what steps the city is taking to reduce the levels of violence, Barrett stated that “the police are out there” as well as414LIFE, an 11-person team trained to interrupt violence in Milwaukee.
At a news conference Friday afternoon in Sherman Park, Vaun Mayes, of the group Community Task Force MKE, said he wanted to step away from the current debate over police reform and police-community relations to address Milwaukee's homicide surge.
Mayes said one of this week's homicide victims was DaQuan Ellis, 20, who police say was shot to death early Wednesday morning in the 2700 block of N. Holton St. Mayes said Ellis was one of the protestors who came to support him, when he was arrested by Milwaukee police and detained for several hours earlier this week.
Mayes said he has reached out to Ellis' parents, and offered help with money-raising for burial expenses.
He also offered his thoughts on the homicide increase, and some of it is linked to domestic violence situations.
"A lot of it is attributed to the run over of the stuff we saw from COVID-19. People being in the house together. Those issues internally among families and friends. Economics, of course. People still not having normality in their lives — as far as the economic situation, their work situation. Also, people having idle time from being in the house, and now they're out and these old issues are rising up," Mayes said.
He added, "We've seen at protests, where people come together in unification, and someone notices, 'Oh, that's an enemy of mine.' "
Mayes said his group has tried to defuse those situations. He said people would typically call police when conflict erupts, "but because they don't trust the police and trust police to handle the situations, we're seeing people taking things into their own hands."
WUWM asked Mayes if the public should contact the police in serious situations. He answered, "We would want to be able to tell people they should call the police. But I can't, in good conscience, tell somebody to disregard everything that you're seeing [about police-community conflicts,] and still do that. I mean, people can still try."
But Mayes said if the police are insufficient help, people should reach out to the city's Office of Violence Prevention and to members of his group.