Rita Warford’s clothing store in Milwaukee has been robbed 11 times in the past 3 1/2 years, says the Chicago Tribune. At day’s end, after locking the black metal security gates outside the window and front door, and pulling a dark fabric shade over the window to hide the merchandise, she goes home, where she and her husband often hear gunshots. Her neighborhood illustrates a strengthening wave of violent crime that is plaguing Milwaukee and other major cities in the Midwest. A Milwaukee alderman called recently for the National Guard to patrol the streets, a remark that stoked, if not advanced, the public discussion and finger-pointing.
Since 2004, aggravated assaults are up a whopping 86 percent in Milwaukee and 42 percent in Minneapolis. Homicides are up 41 percent in Cincinnati, 26 percent in Kansas City, and 38 percent in Cleveland. Detroit’s robberies have leapt by 40 percent. The decline of the manufacturing economy is a common factor linking many of these communities. “We used to say that with a strong back and a good alarm clock you could support your family. No more,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. A new report by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that two-thirds of men in their 30s in one neighborhood have been imprisoned. Sixty-three percent have no high school diploma or equivalent, and only 4 percent have a valid driver’s license. Lois Quinn, the study’s author, said it is not surprising that half of those released from prison go back, because many are not trained for new jobs and the overwhelming majority don’t have a license to drive to a job, if they had one to go to.