Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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Milwaukee Motor Vehicle Thefts & Homicides Fuel County’s Crime Explosion [PART 3]

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PART THREE IN AN 11-PART SERIES. See parts 1 (on COVID policy changes imperiling public safety) and 2 (on the Collins Agreement).

Milwaukee County’s criminal justice system has broken down at almost all levels.

Although some of the breakdown can be attributed to the pandemic, some can not. Local officials’ questionable policy decisions also play a role, and it’s imperiling public safety. The pandemic exacerbated some already existing trends and caused others, but officials have not developed effective strategies to recover. Some non-pandemic-related issues, like the ACLU-related Collins Agreement’s impact on proactive policing and plummeting numbers of police officers (down 26% since 1996) have been largely overlooked in the media.

PROBLEM #3: The number of crimes in Milwaukee County in serious categories have risen since 2018, driven by the City of Milwaukee and fueled by dramatic spikes in motor vehicle thefts and homicides. While the latter have been widely covered, a new report provides the interesting data points to further understanding of the problem, so we decided to break the issue out into its own story.

For example, the City of Milwaukee accounts for 68% and 76% of the most serious crimes committed in Milwaukee County each year, and motor vehicle thefts exploded dramatically in 2021 but are now starting to decline.

Reported drug offenses dropped 31% (at a time of spiraling overdoses), and weapons law violations and intimidation skyrocketed. Numbers on things like drug offenses can be affected by lack of enforcement by police. [Note: tomorrow we will explore the MPD’s plummeting arrest numbers.]

We would note that intimidation may be up because accused offenders are on the streets for longer before trial, due to backlogs and jail overcrowding and other issues, so witnesses and victims may feel more threatened if they testify.

Milwaukee motor vehicle thefts

  • Our note: The City of Milwaukee’s crime dashboard provides updated totals for 2023. Homicides and motor vehicle thefts are among crime categories continuing to decline this year over 2022 at this time. Aggravated assault, theft and arson are also dropping. However, non-fatal shootings, carjackings, burglary, human trafficking, rape and robbery are up in 2023 year-to-date when compared to this time last year.

THE SERIES:  We have taken the lead in exploring the problems in Milwaukee County’s Criminal Justice system, breaking stories on Milwaukee police staffing declines (which started years ago), the DA’s high non-prosecution rate and new reliance on summonses, the ACLU Collins Agreement’s deleterious effect on proactive policing, new jail and police policies restricting bookings and arrests, and the massive court backlogs, which leave defendants on the streets longer to re-offend and which provoke constitutional concerns. Milwaukee is at a crisis point, with record homicide numbers and a severe reckless driving crisis.

Now, a new August 2023 report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum has examined Milwaukee County’s Criminal Justice System in great detail, providing fresh data from 2018 (before the pandemic) to 2022. We are excerpting some of the key statistical findings in an 11-part series to further understanding of the problem. You can’t formulate solutions if you don’t understand the problem’s scope. The few news articles that emerged only superficially skimmed over the report’s findings.

Although the report deals with the context of the pandemic, it also makes it clear that, in many respects, trends imperiling public safety started before it or have continued, even escalating in some cases, in 2022, after its height. In other words, you can’t blame everything on the pandemic. The report also indicates that, in a number of ways, problems that escalated during the pandemic have not been resolved by officials even as late as 2022.

In each article, which we will run over 11 days at 7 a.m. every day, we will outline the problems and present the research, keeping rhetoric out of the way. After that, we will run a wrap-up article suggesting solutions. What happens in the state’s largest county has an effect throughout Wisconsin. The WPF report was commissioned by the Milwaukee-based Argosy Foundation and the Milwaukee Community Justice Council (CJC). In this series, we hope to get past simplistic rhetoric (“it’s the state Legislature’s fault!” or “who cares what happens in Milwaukee!”) and focus on data.

PROBLEM #3: Motor Vehicle Theft & Murder Explode

The report analyzed crime trends in two categories.

Within the Uniform Crime Reporting System, known as UCR, crime is separated into two categories. Part 1 crimes, according to the FBI, are “serious crimes” that “occur with regularity in all areas of the country” and “are likely to be reported to the police.” These crimes include criminal homicide (all murder and manslaughter cases), forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft, and human trafficking, the report says.

Part 2 crimes include all other offense types tracked by the UCR, “including simple assault, forgery and counterfeiting, fraud and embezzlement, stolen property, vandalism, weapons, prostitution, sex offenses, drug violations, gambling, offenses against the family and children, driving under the influence, disorderly conduct, and others. While most law enforcement agencies collect arrest data on both Part 1 and Part 2 crimes, data on offenses are only reported publicly for Part 1 crimes,” the report says.

Milwaukee motor vehicle thefts
Milwaukee motor vehicle theft chart from the report.

The report notes that it “analyzed trends on offenses and arrests across the 21 Milwaukee County law enforcement agencies, breaking them out into Part 1 and Part 2 crimes where possible.”

Milwaukee motor vehicle thefts

The report found:

  • Part 1 offenses are up slightly over the last five years and spiked in 2021.
  • From 2018 to 2020, Part 1 offenses totaled between 33,000 and 36,500 annually, before jumping to 44,795 in 2021 and subsequently declining back down to 37,822 in 2022.
  • The report shows that, when comparing 2022 to 2018, offenses in these categories were higher in number: motor vehicle theft, aggravated assault, murder and non-negligent manslaughter, and manslaughter by negligence (human trafficking data was not collected in 2018).
  • In the same time frame, there were fewer offenses in these categories: larceny theft, burglary, robbery, rape, arson (almost level).
  • The 2021 spike was driven by motor vehicle theft, when there was a 300 percent increase. Motor vehicle thefts have started to decline.
  • The increase in murder was also noted by the report’s authors (the city of Milwaukee recorded historic homicide highs in recent years).
  • MPD logged between 68% and 76% of all Part 1 offenses in the county across each of the past five years, so the city tends to drive the county-wide trends.
  • “When we look in greater detail at data from the 20 other law enforcement agencies in the county, we find divergent trends,” the report says. “In these agencies, Part 1 offense counts have been remarkably consistent over time – in no year were there fewer than 9,300 offenses or more than 10,600 offenses. However, offense totals peaked in 2019, and have fallen in each year since, reaching a low of just 9,350 in 2022.”
  • Relative to 2019, “the only offense categories that showed increases for the non-MPD agencies in 2022 were motor vehicle thefts and robberies, which saw an 8.1% jump (from 197 to 213).”

The report also analyzed Part 2 offenses for the MPD only.

  • “The MPD data show that Part 2 offenses increased by 26.4% from 2018 to 2022 (from 19,074 to 24,106). The increase was particularly sharp in 2021, when the number of Part 2 offenses escalated from the previous year’s 21,978 to 25,188, before declining by about 1,100 in 2022.
  • The largest categories of Part 2 offenses in Milwaukee are “weapons law violations (7,125 in 2022), destruction/damage/ vandalism (5,390), simple assaults (5,046), intimidation (3,327), and drug and narcotics violations (1,266). Together, those five
    categories accounted for 92% of Part 2 offenses in the city last year… substantial increases from 2018 to 2022 in weapons violations (+122%), intimidation (+81%), and destruction/damage/vandalism (+57%) accounted for much of the overall increase. Simple assaults declined by 6% over the same time period, while drug and narcotics violations dropped by 31%.

Read part 4 tomorrow on plummeting arrests and clearance rates.

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Trump Thwarts Haley in Her Native South Carolina, Rolls on to Michigan

Sweeping a fourth consecutive primary by a significant margin, former President Donald Trump left South Carolina victorious on Saturday and on a roll heading into Michigan on Tuesday.

Nikki Haley, two-term governor of South Carolina and a former United Nations ambassador in Trump’s administration, was overwhelmed in unofficial very early vote count totals. The race was called minutes after the closing of polls at 7 p.m. Eastern.

South Carolinians, who do not register by party and could choose to vote in either but not both primaries, in early voting exceeded the more than 131,000 votes cast – about 4% – in the Democratic primary on Feb. 3 when 96% chose President Joe Biden.

South Carolina has about 3.3 million registered voters and gets nine of the 538 Electoral College votes in November's general election.

At stake in the South’s first Republican primary were 50 delegates at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on July 15-18. Twenty-nine went to Trump as the statewide winner; three delegates each go to winners in the seven congressional districts, respectively. Those results were still pending at time of publication, though Trump was projected to up his total to 44 of the state's 50.

"I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now," Trump said in a victory speech that began minutes after the polls closed. "You can celebrate for about 15 minutes, but then we have to get back to work."

The nation’s 45th president added to previous caucuses and primary wins in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, the first non-incumbent GOP candidate to open with such a sweep since 1976's primary and caucuses calendar change. Since 1980, only Newt Gingrich in 2012 won South Carolina's Republican primary without reaching the national ticket.

In a social media post in the final hour before polls closed, Haley wrote, "Filled with gratitude today. Getting to vote with my mom and my kids at my side is a memory I’ll cherish forever."

Immigration, inflation, energy, an America-first foreign policy and revenge from the 2020 loss to Biden have been hallmarks of the 77-year-old Trump’s campaign.

“No country could sustain what is happening to the United States of America,” Trump, during his victory speech, said of the ongoing situation at the U.S. border with Mexico. “Right now, our country is a laughing stock all over the world. Our country is going to be respected again, respected like never before.”

On the campaign trail in Rock Hill on Friday, Trump said Haley was staying in the race to help Democrats. The flip side is Haley’s supporters see Trump and his 91 criminal charges as the GOP choice that Democrats would want to face their candidate.

Trump also served up comments on race – sparking partisan critiques – when speaking to a friendly crowd at the Black Conservative Federation Gala in Columbia later in the evening.

Haley, 52, was in Greenville on Tuesday saying she’s campaigning to save the country, led by the topics of education, economy, immigration, homicides, fentanyl and foreign policy. She voted in Kiawah Island on Saturday morning, having spent Friday in Moncks Corner among other stops.

Haley says Trump brings chaos and will be unelectable in the general election, though national polls including The Center Square Voters’ Voice Poll disagree. In a Marquette Law School national poll released Wednesday, proposed 1-on-1 races have Haley defeating Biden 58%-42% and Trump beating Biden 51%-49%.

Prior to Saturday, Real Clear Politics' polling average showed Trump ahead of Haley 63%-32% in South Carolina. Nationally, the advantage climbs to 75%-17%.

While Haley has tirelessly been asked about stepping out of the race, campaign manager Betsy Ankney on Friday confirmed a “seven-figure” ad buy for Super Tuesday states. The March 5 primary schedule includes 15 Republican and 14 Democratic primaries.

(This is a developing story and will be updated.)

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Wisconsin GOP Congressmen: Evers Drew Congressional Maps He Wants Struck Down

(The Center Square) – Some of Wisconsin’s Republican congressmen say there is a problem with Gov. Tony Evers’ latest problems with the state’s political maps.

Evers this week asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take a look at the state’s congressional maps.

"MONDAY: I signed fair maps for Wisconsin’s Legislature," Evers tweeted Wednesday. "NEXT UP: fair maps for our congressional districts."

The liberal law firm The Elias Group has already asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reconsider the state’s congressional maps, just like the court reconsidered the state’s legislative maps.

The high court tossed those state maps back in December. But Wisconsin lawmakers ended the court’s review and replacement by passing Evers’ preferred maps for Assembly and Senate districts.

Western Wisconsin Republican Congressman Derrick Van Orden on Wednesday pointed out the Congressional maps are also Evers’ own.

“The maps are a 100% product of the Dems,” Van Orden said in a tweet. “Evers drew them. Zero Republicans voted for them. Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled them constitutional. US Supreme Court ruled them constitutional. This is a naked power Dem grab.”

WOW County Republican Congressman Scott Fitzgerald said the same thing.

“I’d like to remind @GovEvers that he is asking the State Supreme Court to review the Congressional maps HE drew,” Fitzgerald said in a tweet. “The map he is now seeking to overturn was drafted by Evers and based off a 2011 bipartisan map, approved by the liberals on the state Supreme Court and survived a challenge all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Evers said reviewing the Congressional maps is part of his effort to “do the right thing.”

"We want to end gerrymandering in Wisconsin at every level, so I’m asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review our congressional maps to make sure those are fair, too."

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has not yet said what it plans to do with the challenge to the congressional maps.

school choice policies

Wisconsin Assembly Approves Plan to Splits Choice School Funding From Public Schools

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin is considering a massive shift in how public and choice schools get their money.

The Wisconsin Assembly approved the plan to decouple the Racine and statewide school voucher programs, replacing the local property tax money that currently pays for those programs with state dollars.

“Currently, legacy charter schools are completely funded by [general purpose revenues]. The Milwaukee Choice program will be funded completely by GPR by 2025,” Rep. Ellen Schutt, R-Clinton, said. “What this bill does, is says that new independent charter schools, and the rest of the choice program should also be funded by GPR and not by aid-reductions from the local school district.”

That would shift millions of dollars for choice schools in Wisconsin from local school districts to the state.

It would also mean a steadier and more reliable stream of dollars for choice schools.

“Decoupling resolves an issue that involves how the current funding mechanism affect public schools and property taxes. This has been a sore spot that creates unnecessary tension between public and private schools,” School Choice Wisconsin President Nic Kelly told The Center Square. “Decoupling is good tax policy that was already enacted for Milwaukee years ago. We want the rest of the state to be treated the same way.”

Decoupling would mean a boost for public schools. Schutt’s legislation would give public schools a one-time, 25% revenue limit increase. The legislature says that will cost as much as $351 million for the next school year.

Some public schools could end up losing money in general state aid, but the decouple legislation would hold them harmless.

“This bill will really help our public schools when they're setting their budgets every year, giving them some idea about how much money they truly will have,” Schutt added. “It will fix the confusion that is currently out there with the way we fund choice and charter, because it's different based on the type of school it is. We had some administrators come down to testify and say that this was really a great idea, and actually Gov. [Tony] Evers supported this idea when he was the superintendent back in 2015.”

Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, however said during debate on the plan that Evers’ office no longer wants to talk about decoupling.

The proposal next heads to the Wisconsin Senate.

Tyler August milwaukee drop boxes

Assembly Majority Leader Puts Responsibility on Milwaukee to Restore Faith in Vote Count

(The Center Square) – The number-two in the Wisconsin Assembly says if lawmakers can’t come to terms on an early count law, it is up to Milwaukee to restore the voters’ faith in their election operation.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said he doesn’t have the votes to pass Monday Count legislation. It would allow Milwaukee to count ballots the day before election day in order to avoid an after-midnight vote dump.

Assembly Majority Leader Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, said Republicans in the Senate should vote on the plan. If they don't, August said, then Milwaukee’s election managers need to act.

“It's incumbent upon the city of Milwaukee to get their act together and count those ballots during the day and have that done so that there isn't constantly this question about the processes in the city of Milwaukee,” August said.

Milwaukee uses a central count location, and election managers in the city say that slows down the counting of absentee ballots. Many times, that leaves a lull between when the votes from election day are tallied, and when the absentee vote count is delivered.

Critics say that lull, and the after-midnight ballot drop, leads to questions about election integrity in Milwaukee.

“People feel like the election is heading in one direction, [then] all the ballots come in at one time in the middle of the night, and it appears that there's some kind of nefarious nature to what's going on,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Tuesday.

Critics of the Monday Count plan also see room for something nefarious. They fear that if Milwaukee has an absentee ballot count ahead of election day, then someone can somehow manufacture an exact number of votes to win.

August said other communities in Wisconsin don’t have the same troubles as Milwaukee and said that’s part of the problem.

“When I go to vote in the city of Lake Geneva they are processing those absentee ballots, there are hundreds of them in Lake Geneva, as well as a smaller staff, less election workers than in the city of Milwaukee has, and they're able to get those done and part of their report that they send into the county clerk by like 9 p.m.,” August said. “So, Milwaukee needs to take a look at what they're doing when it comes to counting absentee ballots, and for their own sake to prove to the people that their processes are secure, and safe, and fair. And get those reports in well before the middle of the night.”

Migrant Students Abbott's Defense of the Border

Denver Schools Facing ‘Unprecedented Challenge’ With Influx of Migrant Students

Denver’s public school system has been taking in as many as 250 new students a week since the new year, which it attributes to the increase in the number of migrants arriving in the city.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero called the situation an “unprecedented challenge” in a message to the community posted on the district’s website. The district said the influx of new students will cost an additional $837,000 “to support additional needs across the system.”

From July 1, 2023 to January 2024, there were 3,221 new-to-country students with more than 1,300 coming to Denver schools since Oct. 1, 2023, the district stated.

The district is hiring more staff to deal with the increase in students and focusing on hiring people who are bilingual, according to the superintendent.

“The pace of new arrivals has remained steady since the start of 2024, with roughly 200-250 students joining us each week,” a report to the school board stated last week.

On Feb. 5, the city of Denver started enforcing 42-day limits on migrants living in city-owned shelters.

“We are watching enrollment data closely over the next few weeks to see if/how our student population moves in response,” the report stated.

The school district provides a phone number to call “to speak to someone in your language.”

The district has struggled with dwindling enrollment since the pandemic. Enrollment reached 93,800 in the 2019-20 school year and then fell to 90,300 in the 2020-2021 pandemic year. In 2021-22, enrollment stayed about the same at 90,250 and then dropped to 89,200 in 2022-23.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been sending migrants from Texas to sanctuary cities across the U.S. On Feb. 12, Abbott posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that Texas has bused more than 16,200 migrants to Denver.

"Texas will not stop until President Biden secures the border," Abbott stated on X.

Denver Public Schools did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Governor’s Veto Powers Wisconsin Republicans Parental Bill of Rights Outlaw Child Sex Dolls Embrace Them Both Unemployment Reforms Wisconsin’s Professional Licensing Bail Reform Amendment wisconsin covid-19

Wisconsin Assembly Eyes Limits on Governor’s Veto Powers

(The Center Square) – Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly are taking the first step to reign in some of the governor’s veto power.

Lawmakers on Tuesday took up Assembly Joint Resolution 112, which would change the Wisconsin Constitution to stop the governor from raising a tax or a fee on his own.

“Wisconsin's unique partial veto is considered one of the most powerful policy tools in the country,” Rep. Amanda Nedweski, R-Pleasant Prairie, told reporters. “From Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson's infamous Vanna White veto, to Democrat Gov. Tony Evers 402-year tax increase, we have seen abuse of the partial veto addressed with proposed constitutional amendments by legislatures nearly 30 times in the last century.”

Nedweski said this proposed constitutional amendment would apply to Evers specifically, but would apply to all future governor’s as well by banning the governor from single handedly increasing taxes or creating fees.

“The will of the people is the law of the land, not the will of the governor,” Nedweski added. “This would appropriately rebalance power between the executive and the legislature, and further restrict the executive from completely rewriting the law. The governor is not a legislator, and the partial veto was not intended to give the governor legislative power.”

Tuesday's vote was the first vote for the plan. It would need to pass the legislature again next year before it would go to the voters, likely next spring.

“We very narrowly crafted this legislation to address the specific situations that we believe members of the public would find the most egregious, the ability for a single person to increase taxes or fees on the people of Wisconsin with the single stroke of a pen,” Nedweski said. “The people should not be subjected to political trickery that does not reflect their will as represented by their legislators.”

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Robin Vos: Medical Marijuana Not Going to Happen This Year

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s assembly speaker is not calling his proposal for medical marijuana dead, but he says it’s not going to happen this year.

Speaker Robin Vos told reporters Thursday there are too many different views of marijuana to find a consensus on a strict-medical only plan.

“I think we have now seen, unfortunately, people who from the very beginning have said that they have concerns that this will lead to widespread recreational marijuana and many of my colleagues on the other side continue to say that that is their goal which of course that's their right,” Vos said.

Vos’ plan would create five state-owned marijuana dispensaries that would sell non-smokable marijuana to people with 15 specific health conditions.

Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate, specifically, don’t like the idea of state-owned pot shops.

“I still think we have the votes in the Assembly to pass it,” Vos added. “I've not had anybody come to me who was a supporter and say they have changed their position. But when we see that the Senate wants to have a more liberal version than one that we're willing to pass, it probably doesn't leave us enough time with the waiting days of the session to get an answer that both chambers can adopt.”

Democrats in Wisconsin have made no secret of their support for fully legal, recreational marijuana and never signed on to Vos’ plan either.

Wisconsin remains one of just 12 states without a medical marijuana law. Wisconsin is one of 26 states that has not legalized recreational marijuana.

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