There were 145 homicide victims in Milwaukee last year, the highest total since 1993’s 160. The spike was a nearly 69 percent increase from 2014, an increase higher than the headline-grabbing changes in Baltimore, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The rise in Milwaukee is stark partly because the city recorded one of its lowest totals in a generation in 2014: 86 victims. The question plaguing Milwaukee and other cities with rising homicide totals is the same: Why? “That is the million dollar question,” said Mallory O’Brien, an epidemiologist who leads the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission, which analyzes shootings in the city looking for causes and solutions.
Several trends have remained constant: Some families have multiple victims, some people could be a perpetrator one day and a victim the next, most of the victims are African-American men and most victims die from gunfire. Some of the killings — on average 1 in 3 — go unsolved. Preliminary numbers show a quarter of homicides in Milwaukee last year stemmed from arguments and fights. A lesser share were the result of domestic violence, drug activity and robbery. Authorities are not sure what led to nearly one-third of the killings. Ask anyone in Milwaukee and they’ll have a different answer: Deep systemic problems of poverty, unemployment, segregation and education. Easy access to firearms. Lack of personal responsibility and the breakdown of the family. An ineffective criminal justice system. Lax sentencing. A pursuit policy critics say too often limits police chases. Too much policing. Not enough policing.