Every time a bullet pierces flesh, a costly journey begins, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in the 3rd of a three-part series. From the paramedic’s first IV to the surgeon’s work, from police scouring a crime scene to the shooter’s time in prison, shootings in Milwaukee cost tens of millions of dollars a year. Most costs are absorbed by taxpayers, hospitals and people with insurance. The average charge for a gunshot victim admitted to one hospital was more than $38,000 last year, when the hospital treated 236 such patients. Those cases alone totaled about $9 million.
Most gunshot victims in Milwaukee are uninsured or rely on various government programs. The costs – and liability to taxpayers and hospitals – can balloon into the hundreds of thousands if the patient ends up in intensive care or requires long-term rehabilitation. Since 2002, bullets have sentenced at least 50 Milwaukeeans, most of them young males, to wheelchairs and a host of long-term medical problems. Beyond hospitals, shootings lead to costs throughout the criminal justice system. They consume police resources, pile onto an already overflowing prosecution caseload and add to a burgeoning prison population. When officers rush to a shooting, as they do about 700 times a year for fatal and non-fatal cases, lower-priority police calls that affect large parts of Milwaukee stack up, sometimes for hours.