Milwaukee first quarter crime down

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  • Milwaukee crime down 17 percent in first quarter of 2009.
  • Barrett pleased with the numbers, and want to continue to be proactive.
  • Only increase from 2008 in number of sexual assaults.

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn announced crime numbers in the city were down 17 percent in the first quarter of 2009 from the same time period last year.

A report released Wednesday said nearly 1,600 fewer people were victims of violent crime in the city in the first three months of 2009.

"Our presence is being felt," Flynn said in the report. "This is a safe place for everyone to come to enjoy all that this city has to offer and the Milwaukee Police Department is clearly having a positive effect."

Mayor Tom Barrett said in a phone interview these numbers were very positive across the board and that the cooperation between law enforcement and the public will continue to be proactive.

"We're very pleased with the release, and think things are headed in the right direction," Barrett said.

Numbers were down in seven of eight crime categories. The report indicated 20 percent reductions in robberies and burglaries, 23 percent in aggravated assault and 30 percent in auto theft.

Barrett said these numbers will increase public consciousness to help assist police officers in continuing to lower numbers.

"I think as people see the city making progress in reducing crime, it gets them more excited about working with the MPD to help reduce crime," Barrett said. "The more the public sees them working, it leads them to provide information, tips and leads and everything they can to make this a safer city."

The only increase of the eight crime categories was in sexual assault. Fifty-seven have been reported this year versus 43 at this point last year.

Barrett said there are efforts ongoing to ensure that this category goes down in the future to match the other seven categories.

"We will continue to press in that area," Barrett said. "We'll ask women to travel in pairs. The police department will be very vigilant in fighting rape cases."

Anne E. Schwartz, a spokeswoman from MPD, said domestic abuse and sexual assault cases are harder to police since they usually occur out of sight from police officers.

"Domestic violence is a difficult crime to prevent from a law enforcement point of view because it is not susceptible to police intervention," Schwartz said via e-mail. "It is a crime that happens in people's homes, behind closed doors."

Audrey Skwierawski, the coordinator of the Milwaukee Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, discussed the implications of that number rising and the steps to ensure it decreases with the release of next quarter's numbers.

"Only coordinated community grassroots work can spread the prevention message in the most effective way, so that the MPD has fewer sexual abuse cases to respond to in the future," Skwierawski said.

Alderman Robert Donovan of Milwaukee's 8th District said the numbers are a step in the right direction, but he warned about complacency and numbers being a misleading indicator of the situation on the streets.

"I'm certainly pleased and I support the police's strategies they have implemented," Donovan said. "The concern is that you don't want to become too overly responsive or put too much emphasis on numbers or maintaining a certain level of order in our neighborhoods."

Donovan said one of the biggest challenges impacting the city is the perception that crime has on the community.

"A better judge for me is what people are actually seeing on the streets," Donovan said. "I think that's more important, and sometimes that is difficult to gage."

Sue Cooper, crime prevention officer for Marquette's Department of Public Safety, said efforts to protect Marquette students on and off-campus are akin to the efforts that MPD is working on.

"If we view suspicious activity from our Command Information Center, we can have our officers respond immediately," Cooper said. "In our opinion, this does a great job of stopping potential crimes. The combination of these things produces fairly low rates of crime both on- and off- campus."

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