By Dylan Deprey
Milwaukee’s road to improve public safety has taken a roller coaster course following events over the past few months.
The summer began with the Common Council announcing their multifaceted Public Safety Action Plan, which would engage community members, civic leaders, faith based organizations and police officers through programs and initiatives.
As Stop-the-Violence block parties popped up around the city and students marched for peace at the beginning of Summer, it was a darker tone towards the end.
Milwaukee had seen its deadliest month in over two decades, and later given the 10th highest murder rate in the United State. Milwaukee was then thrust into the national spotlight, as buildings burned during the unrest in Sherman Park following the police involved shooting of Sylville Smith.
According to a recently released Public Safety Survey, 70 percent of Milwaukee residents considered moving because they saw crime as a major issue in their neighborhood. These results are lowered as age fell under 29 years-old and over 60-years-old.
In October, the Common Council and president Ashanti Hamilton requested an online survey to gauge the community’s perspective on issues regarding public safety.
“Your input will help provide us with incredibly valuable information going forward – information we need but might not have ever received if not for your willingness to step forward and complete a survey,” Hamilton said in a press release.
The online survey was conducted for 42 days, spanned 32 zip codes and had a total of 1,634 respondents spanning the aldermanic districts and ranging in different ages, races and ethnicities.
“The Public Safety Survey was not intended to be a scientific poll. Rather, it should be considered analogous to public testimony given in committee or comments made at a town hall meeting,” said Legislative Fiscal Analyst Adam Wickersham in a memo regarding the analysis.
The survey found that the three greatest issues of public safety in the city were: carjacking, residential burglary and reckless driving.
The results did not change for genders. As for African Americans gun violence replaced residential burglary, and for those aged 29 and under, muggings replaced residential burglary.
Unlike some skepticism from community members and advocacy groups regarding a substantial increase in police presence, there was an overwhelming support to adding neighborhood beat cops on foot and bicycle.
Further analysis of the survey showed that majority of respondents found the Police Department successful in solving crime, but only 26% believed MPD was proactive in actually preventing crime.
An interesting point further down in the data showed that residents believed unemployment and poverty were tied as the leading causes for crime at 21 percent.
Ironically, when asked the primary solution to solving crime, 45 percent of people thought more police was the answer. Sitting a little under half that was 20 percent who thought the solution should be increased job opportunities.
According to the survey, minus greater overarching themes, the possibility for statistical skew due to the sampling of people should also be considered.
The survey comprised 65 percent White (Non-Latino), 10 percent African American and 5 percent Latino. Milwaukee’s latest demographic show the city as 44 percent White (Non-Latino), 40 percent African American, and 17 percent Latino.
Other items that could skew the results include a low male response, and a low rate of respondents aged 29 and below.
Ald. Bob Donovan, Public Safety Committee Chair, said the survey was “an important tool” in providing resources for public safety across the city. He added that the survey was a significant first to hear from the community.
“Knowing we can conduct a non-scientific but otherwise common sense survey like this tells me that we can create other such surveys in the near future on other key topics, perhaps city infrastructure, for example,” Donovan said.
President Hamilton encouraged the fire and police commission and Office of Violence Prevention to look over the survey and use it as a conversation leading into the new year.
To view the Public Safety Survey in its entirety visit Milwaukee.gov/CommonCouncil.