Compiled by MCJ Staff
Though Milwaukee political and law enforcement officials recently announced strategies to corral the spike in gun violence, Black political and civil rights leaders called for just as an aggressive approach in addressing the root causes of the shootings.
Last week, Mayor Tom Barrett and Police Chief Edward Flynn outlined strategies for reducing the shootings. There have been a rash of shootings in the city this month. As of August 13, seven people have been fatally shot and 16 injured by gunfire.
The mayor reportedly ordered more police overtime, and wants the state to chip-in and pass tougher gun laws. Flynn has reportedly assigned his officers to watch districts and individuals with a history of gun offenses.
James Hall, president of the NAACP-Milwaukee Branch, said the increasing violence in the community should not come as a surprise.
Hall said it’s not enough to express outrage about violence. There must also be outrage at the circumstances contributing to the situation.
“The poverty, unemployment rates and disparities in income and opportunity affecting Milwaukee’s African American community are among the highest in the nation,” Hall said in a statement on the sudden rise in shootings.
“The fact is few African Americans or others with jobs and opportunities commit murder or other violent crimes,” Hall said, adding elected officials, business leaders, the faith community, community organizations, and educational institutions “have an important role to play in addressing these issues.
“We must move the needle and reduce disparities by creating jobs and socio-economic opportunities to trans form our community into ‘One Milwaukee’ that is inclusive.”
Echoing Hall, Milwaukee Ald. Joe Davis, Sr. called out local political leaders who “get tough on crime, but are soft on economics.
“The City of Milwaukee has a pathetic rate of growth in its private sector that is directly related to its crime rate,” Davis said, adding the politics of “divide and conquer”—local government officials fighting over miniscule issues that could unite the city—stagnates its economy and shuts out Black males.
“Now we want to spend $500,000 on police overtime, but fight not to invest the same amount in African American men and boys who will be the target of strict law enforcement because of our dismal local economy in their community,” Davis said.
Davis noted the city’s illegal drug trade is the common way some Black residents provide for themselves economically. “Its mere presence is creating instability that is directly related to our violent crime statistics.”
Davis said local government has neglected benchmarking reasonable economic growth by not targeting investments that could give a reasonable rate of return in the domestic and global economies.
“We accept group homes, day cares, gas stations and corner grocery stores as a pro business growth strategy while other local economies are looking at us in their rear view mirror.”
As an example, Davis noted that the City of Kenosha recently landed an Amazon distribution center.