'Disheartened': City leaders discuss homicides in Milwaukee in 2020, plans for 2021
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Debra Gillispie knows what it's like to lose someone to gun violence. Her son, and his two friends, were shot and killed in 2003.
"Gun violence doesn't just affect the mom or the parents, it affects the whole community," she said.
She founded Mothers Against Gun Violence, working to encourage change and to help people share their stories. She's partnered with UW-Milwaukee and Carroll University on a project called Voices of Gun Violence.
"In order for us to address it, we need to see it as a communal issue," she said.
She said it's important for survivors to tell their stories.
There are many impacted by gun violence in Milwaukee this year. According to the Milwaukee Police Department, there have been 184 homicides in 2020 from January 1 through December 6, compared to 92 homicides in 2019 during the same period.
"Coming into 2020, I was optimistic because we had seen four consecutive years in a row of declining homicide rates, but what we saw instead was a doubling of homicide rates, bringing us to the highest number we have seen in the history of the city," said Mayor Tom Barrett.
Barrett says there is money in the 2021 budget for expansion of 414Life, a violence interruption program.
"This expansion will prioritize neighborhoods that have been impacted by high rates of gun violence in the hopes we'll be able to disengage people who are involved in it before they create the crimes," he said.
"Violence interruption, just basically meaning violence itself spreads like a disease and that there are certain actions that need to be taken to interrupt violence," said Derrick Rogers, the director for 414Life, "The biggest part of that is utilizing individuals who have a very intimate association or previous intimate association with gun violence, who have the best understanding, networks, and connections to being able to stop some of that violence today."
Rogers says $200,000 more will be allocated to violence interruption work next year. He says a lot of that work will be going into expansion into work on the south side. He says there's also more collaboration being done around data.
"That's one of the huge efforts I know the Office of Violence Prevention is diving into right now," he said.
He says expanding will allow 414Life to build networks and to hire more outreach workers and violence interrupters.
"One of the biggest things in expanding the team, we have the opportunity as well to work with more individuals who are considered to be high-risk, people who have been shot before, people who have been involved in violent incidents in the past, and build relationships with them where we can provide more resources to them, more support, more treatment."
Mayor Barrett says they've also been working with Employ Milwaukee to crate more jobs for young people during the summer in 2021.
"We're coming at that with renewed enthusiasm because I think the more you can create hope and opportunity through the lives of our young people through jobs, the better everybody is. They're better off, society's better off, the people who are employing them are better off," he said.
"Disheartened by the level of violence we've seen in Milwaukee so far this year," " said Common Council President Cavalier Johnson, "I would implore individuals, whether it's a pandemic or not, when you feel like you're in a situation where you're going to inflict violence upon someone else to think about how you would feel if somebody was looking to inflict violence to someone you care about."
Johnson says in 2020, the police department is losing 60 officers because of attrition and in 20201, the city is scheduled to lose 150 officers. That number could be as low as 120, if the Common Council approves a federal grant.
He in the future, the City is in a situation where they will have to continually cut police officer positions because it can't afford them. He says it would be helpful if the state would give the city some additional tools.
"Like being able to raise a tax that could capture some of the spending from people who are visiting Milwaukee , whether they are visitors or commuters that virtually every other large City in America has, that could help us out."
He also said the state government were to reinstitute a plan on shared revenue.
"Where shared revenue would actually be fair and they wouldn't be keeping more of the funds like they've been doing for a better part of 20 years, we could be in a different position right now," he said.
He says another thing that needs to be done is working to provide good paying, family supporting jobs into neighborhoods.
"When you look at the heat map where some of these violent instances are occurring it's not a surprise, really, they are in the areas in our city that have been neglected economically for a generation," he said, "It's incumbent upon us as members of the Common Council and City and the region, quite frankly, to make sure people have access to family supporting jobs, whether they're in the City of Milwaukee or supporting initiatives like a regional transit authority to get them from where they are to family supporting jobs, no matter where they are in our general location."