Crime levels down significantly in city

  • Violent crime in Milwaukee has decreased significantly since Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn took control last year.
  • Flynn has employed new tactics that focus on community involvement, data assessment and targeting problem areas of the city.
  • Though other factors likely contribute to this accomplishment, Flynn has received positive feedback for his efforts and his emphasis on communication.

Violent criminal activity has declined significantly in the city under the direction of Milwaukee Police Department Chief Edward Flynn, who took office a year ago.

A news release issued by MPD on Jan. 2 reported that Milwaukee's 71 homicides of 2008 represented a 32 percent decrease from the 105 homicides of 2007.

According to the release, Milwaukee also experienced a 64.8 percent decrease in the number of black male victims killed between ages 15 and 29 in 2008. Improvements were detected in other areas, including the number of victims killed by a firearm, which was nearly half the number reported in 2007.

Sgt. Jeffrey Cook of MPD District 6 said he has noticed very good results this year in reducing crime, fear and disorder.

"I think our success is mostly due to our chief's plan, which centers around police control and data driven police work," Cook said.

MPD uses crime data to determine which areas of Milwaukee experience the highest concentration of crime and then the department centers efforts on those areas, he said.

"From my perspective, crime is not necessarily the problem because crime will occur no matter what we do," Cook said.

Cook cited MPD's involvement and work with the community as a deterrent for criminal activity.

"If you act like an occupying army then you can't do very well," Cook said. "If you are a community resource and address problems on a community level, you are an ally rather than an enemy, and you will have much more flexibility."

Cook said he has noticed a change since Flynn implemented these methods. He said the citizens have contributed greatly to police efforts.

"Once we establish those community bonds, it is much easier for people to approach the police with helpful information," Cook said.

In addition to community outreach, MPD has also used crime data to focus on the specific criminals that are the largest generators of crime, he said.

Drastic decreases in Milwaukee crime since 2007 could also be attributed to the natural fluctuation of crime that occurs from year to year, said Chief David Banaszynski of the Shorewood Police Department.

"I don't think any chief of police will guarantee that rates will stay low," Banaszynski said.

Despite routine fluctuation, Flynn is listening to his district captains and they communicate and work very well together, he said.

"Flynn has always been supportive of the uniform police officer and wants them to be successful in their work," Banaszynski said.

He said Milwaukee has hired a "great" chief of police who lives up to his word. The Shorewood police appreciate MPD for its willingness to extend help and to work cooperatively with the them, he said.

The additional resources that Flynn has utilized have clearly had a positive impact on the community, said Ryan Sugden, a spokeman for the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance.

Though MPD's reduction of crime is a commendable accomplishment, Sugden said, it is important to recognize that homicide statistics are relatively low compared to statistics of other violent crimes. As a consequence, a small fluctuation in annual homicides will translate as a large change in percent.

"Milwaukee is certainly unique when you compare around the state," Sugden said. "It is larger, more populated, and that requires the city to have unique tactics."

Flynn touched on many of these issues during an interview with Mike Gousha last week in Sensenbrenner Hall.

"The challenge for law enforcement is to devise strategies that will disrupt criminal markets and violence," Flynn said. "This is especially important with marketplaces that have been sustained for a number of years."

He said challenges arise when neighborhoods experience too much crime. When this happens, a neighborhood reaches a tipping point: stores close -— taking economic opportunity with them — and crime flourishes, he said.

"The key variable is the public perception of safety in that neighborhood and recognizing the reality when that perception actually changes," Flynn said.

Apart from determining effective methods of law enforcement and crime prevention, since his arrival in Milwaukee, Flynn said he has noticed Milwaukee's biggest strength in the population's genuine concern for the city and its future.

"This department has responded to an approach in which the officers feel they are given tools to make them successful," Flynn said. "We want to be good guys. If we work on our own culture in the (department) we can show that we can have a positive effect on the community."

In the final segment of his interview, Flynn said he has unfortunately noticed an unnecessary inferiority complex among citizens of Milwaukee. He says the community needs to think and act big-league.

"You are opinion leaders," Flynn said. "My challenge to you is when somebody starts running down your city you contradict them, confront people. This is a good city full of good neighborhoods with good people."