MPD releases crime stats: Homicides and car thefts down, carjackings up to begin 2023

NOW: MPD releases crime stats: Homicides and car thefts down, carjackings up to begin 2023

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee police data for the first three months of this year revealed a mixed bag. While the city has recorded fewer homicides and car thefts, carjackings have increased while the number of non-fatal shootings mirrored last year's total.

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention Director Ashanti Hamilton met with reporters to discuss the police statistics, which covered the span between Jan. 1 and March 31. 

Milwaukee has recorded a record-high number of homicides in each of the past three years. Through the first quarter of 2023, the city reported 39 homicides. In 2022, Milwaukee recorded 50 homicides in the first three months of the year. The first quarter homicide total in 2021 was 26.

While homicide numbers varied, the number of non-fatal shootings was eerily consistent. The city recorded 175 non-fatal shootings in the first three months of this year; the first quarter total in 2022 was 174. Milwaukee had 149 non-fatal shootings in 2021.

Non-fatal shootings included incidents where there was at least one gunshot victim, but no one died. That category did not include shooting incidents where no people were hit. 

Overall, total violent crime declined by 7% compared to the first three months of 2022. Including serious property crimes, like arson and burglary, MPD reported a 19% decrease in "Part I" crimes.

"Let me be clear, I'm not satisfied," Johnson said. "I'm not satisfied with where we are with the levels of crime and violence here in the city."

Johnson noted each statistic had a story, and added incidents like one over the weekend, where a party bus from the Green Bay area was caught in crossfire, can ripple throughout the city's economy. The company involved told the Green Bay CBS affiliate, WFRV-TV, it planned to stop taking nighttime trips to Milwaukee.

"Anytime incidents like that happen, it pisses me off," Johnson said. "People who otherwise would be coming in are no longer coming in to spend their dollars, and then you end up out of a job because somebody else was acting silly with a gun."

Johnson added he believed another ongoing factor in the gun violence was people having easy access to guns while having a hard time using their words to resolve disputes. Johnson specifically called out Congress and the state legislature for not doing enough to keep guns out of the wrong people's hands.

"They should do something," Johnson said. "They should do their jobs as it relates to access to firearms."

Car crime and crash data

There was a sharp contrast in a pair of vehicle-related categories. Police said they had taken considerably fewer stolen car reports so far this year.

In the first three months of 2023, MPD documented 1,433 stolen cars. It amounted to a 34% decrease from 2022, when that number was 2,175; it was 2,164 in 2021. 

At the same time, carjackings increased by 57% compared to 2021. In the first quarter of 2023, police recorded 108 carjackings. In 2022, there were 77. Police recorded 69 carjackings for that timeframe in 2021.

Normal said he was especially concerned by how many carjacking suspects were young, first-time offenders.

"This is not like you're dealing with someone who has consistent carjackings on their [record]," Norman said. "These are no history, at all. So, that is concerning."

Amid the city's ongoing efforts to combat reckless driving, MPD reported the number of car crashes decreased from 3,855 in the first quarter of 2022 to 3,426 this year. Hit-and-run collisions declined by 19%, going from 1,550 last year to 1,261 in 2023.

In the first three months of both years, 16 people died in traffic crashes. 

Seeking solutions, especially for the youth

In addition to calling for stricter federal and state gun laws, Johnson also said the city needed a greater investment in both job creation and stable housing.

Norman said a focus for the department moving forward would be working with community groups to reach juveniles. He said the goal would be to prevent teens and young adults from becoming both victims and offenders. 

A review of MPD media releases found since April 9, nine people 19 years old or younger had been shot. Police said each of the victims were expected to survive.

"We know that we cannot do it alone, so we share this amongst many different group settings," Norman said. "We see how we can work collaboratively to impact and intervene."

Johnson said too many of the shootings stemmed from petty arguments. He added one of the missions for the collaborating groups, which include both city agencies and nonprofits, was teaching better conflict resolution skills.

"It used to be, back in the day, if you had a dispute with somebody, you'd have an argument, and then you'd leave," Johnson said. "Or you just would walk away from the situation, or worse, maybe you get into a fistfight and leave with a bloody nose."

"But these days, folks decide, 'I've gotta end you. I've gotta pull out a gun and end your life.'" 

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