Commentary: Reducing crime must be top priority

Frank Lockett of Stop the Violence Ministry posts a
Frank Lockett of Stop the Violence Ministry posts a "Stop the Violence" sign on Sunday, May 15, at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Highland Avenue in downtown Milwaukee. Photo from WISN-TV Channel 12, a media partner of BizTimes Milwaukee.

It was disappointing to see the Milwaukee Bucks lose in their playoff series against the Boston Celtics, but far more disturbing things were happening in downtown Milwaukee at the same time.

On the night of Game 6 of the Bucks-Celtics series at Fiserv Forum, three separate shooting incidents occurred near the Deer District. A total of 21 people were injured. Thankfully, none of the injuries were considered life-threatening.

But the shootings were horrifying nonetheless, and large crowds of terrified people ran for their lives as the events unfolded.

“… Everybody had a gun. You really couldn’t go nowhere. Everywhere you turned, it was some type of altercation where somebody had a gun up,” said Ron Allen, a bystander who was quoted by WISN-TV Channel 12.

Crime in Milwaukee has been a problem as long as I can remember, but it has gotten worse in recent years with a record-setting homicide rate and a huge spike in auto thefts.

Crime is Milwaukee’s biggest problem. It’s destroying people’s lives and devastating families. It ruins the quality of life for its citizens. And it’s bad for business, too. If somehow the city’s crime rate was drastically reduced, the quality of life in Milwaukee would improve dramatically, people’s lives would be saved and the city’s economy would boom.

But how?

We certainly can’t “defund the police.” Police need to act appropriately, but they are absolutely vital to our safety, and they need our support. Milwaukee needs more police officers. But the city’s financial problems are a challenge. The city either needs more state funding or more freedom to increase its revenue to pay for police and other vital needs.

The role of law enforcement and the justice system is to hold lawbreakers accountable and deter people from breaking the law. But that isn’t enough to prevent crime, and the entire community must work to make sure everyone has an opportunity to make better choices and live a peaceful and productive life. That includes providing every child access to quality schools and better availability for mental health services.

Our criminal justice system is failing to protect us as too many people are able to repeatedly commit violent crimes. People need to either live their lives lawfully, or live in prison. There are also then some really good Jersey City criminal defense attorneys who we need to mention as we have been working with them for a while and they have been great to work with, you can find them here.

Milwaukee has made great strides in addressing homelessness through collaboration by a number public, private and nonprofit stakeholders. We need a similar approach to address crime and safety.

Finally, more must be done to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Our right to bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution, and everyone should indeed have the right to defend themselves. But it is absolutely insane to have large numbers of people carrying guns in crowded urban areas which turn into shooting galleries when someone loses their temper.

Reducing crime has to be the top priority for our leaders. Everything that matters is at stake.

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Andrew Weiland
Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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