By Hayley Crandall
Last week, Mayor Tom Barrett and other community leaders gathered in front of one of the new 414 LIFE billboards to readdress their fight against violence as a public health issue with promises of re-commitment and team efforts.
“This is a time where we have to recommit,” Barrett said. “We as a city have to recommit to doing everything we can.”
Starting in 2016, homicides were on a steady decline but last year brought that to a halt, starting with the Molson Coors shooting, Barrett explained.
“Throughout the year, we saw homicides that were either at or at several points even above a 100% increase in 2020 compared to 2019,” Barrett said.
As the year continued, the coronavirus pandemic caused more issues, especially pertaining to domestic violence, Barrett said, as safer-at-home orders confined residents to places that may not always be safe from other dangers.
The city is working to combat domestic violence with increasing funding for efforts. More information regarding those campaigns will be shared at a later time, Barrett said.
The City of Milwaukee’s 414 LIFE program will also be expanded through the city’s investment and national funding, according to a press release.
The 414 LIFE program aims to prevent gun violence in the community and helps those affected by it. The program also utilizes the “Milwaukee Blueprint for Peace,” a community-fueled agenda aimed at addressing and combating the many factors that lead to violence.
The 414 LIFE program will increase canvasing in “hot spots,” expand its collaborative network and launch virtual programs for high schools, among other goals, according to the 414 LIFE Program Director Derrick Rogers.
“Despite the health challenges and unrest and despair of 2020, the 414 LIFE violence interruption team continues to work vigorously to support families, youth and community members disproportionately affected by the conditions,” Rogers said. “I submit that in 2021, this group of incredible messengers will continue to press forward in this war to heal and protect our community.”
Given the scale, violence in Milwaukee can be considered another pandemic, Reggie Moore, director of the Office of Violence Prevention, said, and it needs to be handled accordingly.
“This is something that we have to respond to with the same level of urgency, commitment and focus as we have the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moore said. “It is not acceptable, and it should not be inevitable that violence occurs in our city. And this is not something that one office, one organization, one program can tackle by itself.”
Froedtert Trauma Surgeon Dr. David Milia spoke about dealing with the rise in gun violence victims. Starting in the spring and into the winter, the hospital saw nearly twice the number of victims compared to their averages, Milia said.
Gun violence affects the whole community, including the doctors who carry emotional burdens from seeing victims, he explained.
“The long-term destruction and devastation caused by 10 grams of lead traveling a thousand feet per second simply can’t be measured,” Milia said. “It can only be seen and then never unseen.”
The Milwaukee Police Department along with the Milwaukee Fire Department spoke on their commitment to curbing violence across the city after the taxing year both departments faced.
“The Milwaukee Police Department understands that team like approach,” Milwaukee Police Department Chief Jeff Norman said. “Even though the men and women of the Milwaukee Police Department are dedicated to handling heavy loads in regards to our commitment to safety in our neighborhoods, the blueprint puts out that this is a multilayer approach. We’re committed to that. We understand that.”
“We’re all standing here today,” Milwaukee Fire Department Chief Aaron Lipski said. “This isn’t too often you get everybody in one spot committed the exact same cause with the exact same energy. And if there was ever a time for it that time is now.”
More information on Milwaukee’s Blueprint for Peace and helping communities can be found at https://city.milwaukee.gov/414Life. The public is also encouraged to share any tips or information through Milwaukee Crime Stoppers.