So Is Milwaukee Safer Or Not?


So Is Milwaukee Safer Or Not?

CREATED Jun 27, 2012

As the dust settles on the latest spat between Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn and the local newspaper, inquiring minds want to know: Is Milwaukee safer or more dangerous?

The answer?  Yes ... and yes!

As everyone knows by know, the Milwaukee Police Department has been grossly under-reporting the actual number of violent crimes in the City since at least 2006.  Between 2006 and the present, Chief Flynn acknowledges that over 5300 violent assaults had been misclassified as less serious crimes.  As a result, the true amount of violent crime in the City has been much larger than reported for years.

So, in a sense, it's impossible to deny that violent crime in the City is actually much worse than reported for years.

At the same time, while violent crime is much worse than reported, it's also true that - analyzed year to year - violent crime has decreased. In other words, while the violent crime has been under-reported for years, there was less violent crime in 2011 than in 2006 (although more than we thought).

So, looked at this way, I guess you can claim that violent crime has gone down.

So, where do we go from here?

At the outset, I think a serious question remains regarding whether there was an intent to deceive the public about the true crime numbers?

The Police Department now says that there were over 5300 violent crimes misreported as less serious offenses and 1200 minor assaults over-reported as serious assaults.  Given that Chief Flynn has an incentive to cast crime statistics in the best possible light, it's tough to believe that a mistake ratio of better than 4 to 1 in favor of under-reporting is merely a coincidence.

That said, I still think Chief Flynn is doing a good job.  He's occasionally arrogant, thin-skinned and more than a bit self-righteous - but that doesn't make him a bad Chief.  As a matter of fact, some of those qualities might be exactly what you need to have in order to survive in a high crime urban environment like Milwaukee.

What's more, intuitively, I think his strategy of flooding high crime areas with cops makes sense.  The obsession with political correctness exhibited by some of Flynn's predecessors certainly did nothing to make the City safer.

The bottom line though is that Chief Flynn is a numbers guy.  Historically, he has measured success by statistics.  That's fine.  However if you're going to rely on statistics, you need to make sure the statistics are accurate.

And when it comes to Milwaukee, it's apparent the numbers haven't been accurate for quite a while. So to that extent, it's more than fair to expect Chief Flynn to get his act together.

Meanwhile, is Milwaukee safer or more dangerous? Yes and yes!