Violent crime is up across the country, including in Milwaukee, according to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He held a press conference in Milwaukee Tuesday at the federal courthouse to address crime trends, and promised new measures, he said, will reduce crime rates.
Sessions said violent crime had been down for a couple of decades, but has gone up in the last two years, and he said it’s not a light matter.
“Let’s be frank, violent crime has been increasing in Milwaukee and throughout America and it’s troubling; we want that to end. Milwaukee rape is up 21 percent in two years. Assault is up; murders are up an astonishing 57 percent. So these trends cannot continue," Sessions said.
He used several examples of people killed by gun violence in Milwaukee to support his arguments. He focused largely on guns, as well as the drug problem that he said fuels a lot of crime in neighborhoods.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn was in the crowd as Sessions made his comments and agreed that drug and gun-related offenses are a component of violent crime in Milwaukee.
To address violent crime around the country, Sessions said he wants to add 40 federal prosecutors to focus on the problem. He said two of those prosecutors would be stationed in Wisconsin.
Sessions also said he wants to invest in task forces that bring together federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement.
“We are most effective when these experienced investigators in the local community are united with the resources and expertise of our team in the federal government. Put simply, this combined task force model is what truly works to reduce violent crime and that is precisely what we’ve established with our reinvigorated Project Safe Neighborhoods program.”
Not everyone supports Sessions’ approach. Democratic State Representative David Bowen was among protestors outside the courthouse. Bowen said if the attorney general really wanted to implement solutions in Milwaukee, he would have continued looking into operations at the Milwaukee Police Department.
In 2015, the justice department began a review of the MPD, at Chief Flynn's request.
But Bowen said he's frustrated that Sessions has not shown interest in continuing the process. “Unfortunately, he has chosen to end that report and that collaboration and it’s doing the opposite. It’s creating more problems throughout this community and I would’ve hoped that he would’ve been honest coming to Milwaukee and actually focusing on solutions,” he said
Earlier this fall, a draft version of the justice department's report was leaked to the media. It accused the MPD of inconsistencies in officer discipline and failures in communication. Chief Flynn argued the draft report contained inaccuracies.
However, some city leaders said it served as a place to start in improving police-community relations.