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Shootings Have More Than Doubled This Year In Green Bay. Here’s What Police Are Doing

Police Chief: Trivial Disputes Are Behind Surge In Gun Violence

Police tape
Justin McGregor (CC-BY-NC-ND)

There were two shootings in Green Bay over the weekend, bringing the number of shootings since January to 45, said police Chief Andrew Smith.

That’s an increase of more than 100 percent compared to this time last year. In fact, the city usually averages 16 to 19 shootings through early October, Smith told members of Green Bay’s Protection and Policy Committee this week.

Homicides are also up: Wisconsin’s third-largest city typically sees 1.6 murders per year, but this year there have been six, Smith said.

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Alder Brian Johnson asked Smith to share the report after several shootings in his own district.

“The second your community feels unsafe, you’ve lost the battle, so it’s really important for us to be on top of this issue,” Johnson said. “We need to let the public know that we’re taking proactive steps to address it.”

The problem isn’t unique to Green Bay — violent crime is on the rise across the country, Smith said. That includes Milwaukee, where there have been 146 homicides so far this year. That’s an increase of 71 compared to the same time last year, according to a database from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Green Bay Police Department has identified two dozen or so people suspected in 60 to 70 percent of the city’s recent shootings, and they’re working to build cases against them. The suspects range in age from 17 to 26, and most of the shootings occurred over petty arguments, Smith said.

“This isn’t a big drug dispute, this isn’t a gang turf war or anything like that,” he said. “This is individuals who are mad at each other because someone is dating someone else’s girlfriend, or someone is now dating a girl they used to date or things of that nature.”

Green Bay police have created a task force composed of four patrol officers and two detectives to address the recent uptick in shootings. Since most incidents have been targeted, the community at large isn’t necessarily at risk, Johnson said. In spite of the recent surge in violent crime, Green Bay is still a safe city and it’s community dialogues that help keep it that way, he said.

Smith met with religious leaders and community activists this week to talk about ways they as community stakeholders might intervene. Police are also working with Green Bay’s redevelopment and public works departments to make improvements in areas of the city where private properties have fallen into disrepair, Smith said.

“I think when you have a neighborhood and some of the properties are in bad shape, it sends a message to people that, ‘Hey, people don’t care about this neighborhood, police don’t care, the community doesn’t care, so I get to do what I want,’” he said.

Johnson agrees reversing the trend will require a holistic solution that won’t come from law enforcement alone.

“Everybody needs to be at the table for an all-hands-on-deck type of approach, and I’m thankful to live in a community that responds to critical situations in that way,” he said.

It’s also budget season, another reason Johnson asked Smith to present on the growth in gun violence.

“Clearly we have some incredibly smart and capable people in our police department that are working on this very diligently, but it’s incumbent upon us as policymakers to ensure we’re either addressing things at a policy level, meaning laws and ordinances, and again the funding component,” Johnson said.

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown municipal budgets for a loop, and the Green Bay Police Department wants to do its share, Smith said. It’s not asking for additional resources to deal with the rash of shootings, but it is requesting to hire two additional officers and a social worker to double the size of its mental health unit, he said.

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