Wisconsin Public Radio

Chief Morales Addresses Spike In Crime

16 fatal shootings in last month; department launches violent crime initiative.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Aug 21st, 2018 10:16 am
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Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales provides a six-month department update to reporters and local officials Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. Photo by Ximena Conde/WPR.

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales provides a six-month department update to reporters and local officials Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. Photo by Ximena Conde/WPR.

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales addressed a spike in violent crime at a press conference Monday, initially intended to be a progress report on the department since he took over roughly six months ago.

In the last month, 16  people have been fatally shot.

“After these last two weeks of violence, our number of homicides is now at the same as last year,” Morales said. “Fortunately, we are still down 14 percent in non-fatal shootings but those numbers can improve as well.”

In 2017, Milwaukee had 119 homicides, 101 died from gunshot wounds, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s homicide database, and the number of homicides resulting from gunshot wounds has gradually decreased since 2015, when the city saw the highest number of homicides in decades.

Morales said six neighborhoods account for 40 percent of homicides in the city, while 13 neighborhoods account for 50 percent of non-fatal shootings.

He said the department launched a violent crime initiative with specialized units from various police districts last week. The initiative has led to 26 arrests.

“We’re also engaging the local community organizations, faith-based and nonprofit partners, and the neighbors themselves to address the underlying issues that lead to violence, such as domestic violence, mental health and drug addiction,” he said.

Still, Morales touted the department’s several improvements under his short tenure. Among them, officers have recovered 8 percent more guns this year than the same time last year and officers have cut down the median response time to calls by 6 percent.

Morales also provided an update about the department’s reckless driving initiative he launched in the spring. He said roughly 2,500 traffic citations have been written and fatal collisions have dropped by 21 percent.

Since taking over as police chief, Morales has stressed transparency and improving police-community relations.

He said he wants to continue that approach by providing trauma-informed care, working with at-risk youth and incentivizing tips from the community.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and several law enforcement officials from other agencies were present at Morales’ press conference.

“Chief Morales has been true to his word that he is working with the rank and file, with his command staff to improve relationships between the police department and the community,” Barrett said.

Barrett also praised Morales’s leadership during two police officer deaths that took place this summer — the first on-duty officer deaths in more than 20 years.

Listen to the WPR report here.

Milwaukee Police Chief Addresses Violent August was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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