Homicides in Milwaukee down nearly 50 percent compared to 2 years ago

Numbers are encouraging to officials, but they say more work needs to be done

Cars and pedestrians pass by in front of a building with "Milwaukee Police" written on the outside.
The Milwaukee Police Administration Building on Thursday, Oct. 13, in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Homicides in Milwaukee are down nearly 50 percent this year compared to two years ago and 23 percent lower than the same time last year. 

Milwaukee officials believe it’s a sign that community outreach and partnerships are working to help lower the rate of gun violence in the city.  

“We continue to see the right direction, right trajectory, but we also know we still have a lot of work to do,” Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman said during a press briefing Tuesday morning. 

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Ashanti Hamilton, executive director of the Office of Community Wellness and Safety, speaks during a press conference at the Milwaukee Police Department administration building on Tuesday, April 15, 2024. Evan Casey/WPR

So far this year, there have been 30 homicides in the city, according to crime data from the Milwaukee Police Department. In 2023, that number was at 39, while there were 56 homicides in Milwaukee at this same point in 2022. 

Nonfatal shootings are also on the decline. So far this year, there have been 157 nonfatal shootings reported. That number was at 213 in 2023 and 189 in 2022.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said it’s an encouraging trend, but there’s still more to be done. 

“That’s more than just a statistic, though — these are human lives,” Johnson said Tuesday. “Now is certainly no time to relax. We’ll continue to apply the approach that we’ve been applying.”

Community organizers in Milwaukee pray for peace following a violent 2022 on Jan. 3, 2023. Evan Casey/WPR

Milwaukee broke its homicide record three years in a row, from 2020 to 2022. Law enforcement experts have pointed to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing number of guns on the street as possible reasons for the spike.

So far this year, the decline in homicides is on track with national trends — down roughly 20 percent in more than 200 cities across the nation compared to last year, according to data from AH Datalytics.

Ashanti Hamilton, executive director of the Office of Community Wellness and Safety, said he believes collaboration between community leaders, the police and violence prevention groups is having a lasting effect. 

“We are at a stage now that we know that the level of partnership — community partnerships and institutional partnerships across the board — are having an impact across the community,” Hamilton said. 

However, violence often increases in the summer months, as Johnson said many kids across Milwaukee are not in school and can be unsupervised. A 2019 study from the University of Southern California also found that violent crime increases when the temperature rises.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson meets with kids at the Neighborhood House of Milwaukee. Evan Casey/WPR

Recent partnerships in the city have worked to lower the rates of violence in the warmer months — including the “Safer City MKE” initiative.” That public-private partnership provides incentives for youth who participate in events and programs across the city when they’re not in school.

The first Milwaukee Peace Week, which included a neighborhood walk, gun violence summit, faith-based panel discussion and a resource fair, was also held in 2023. Camp RISE, a free “summer enrichment and career exploration program,” will take place in June and July this year. That program has motivational speakers and hosts field trips across the area.

Johnson and Norman encouraged community members to make sure their guns are locked, as accidental child shootings have been on the rise in Milwaukee in recent years.

“That is unacceptable,” Norman said about guns being left out.

Other crimes in Milwaukee — including robberies, auto thefts and aggravated assaults — are collectively down 10 percent this year compared to last, according to Quarter 1 crime statistics from the department.

The city’s homicide clearance rate, or the number of homicides solved by the Milwaukee Police Department, is at 83 percent. That number has dipped below 50 percent in prior years.