Intimate Partner Homicides in Wisconsin soar.

Fewer homicides than last year, but more involve intimate partners

July 16, 2016

By Ashley Luthern of the Journal Sentinel

Although homicides and nonfatal shootings declined in Milwaukee during the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2015, the midyear totals remain higher than any other year in the past decade, a new report shows.

When accounting only for firearm violence — 312 fatal and nonfatal shootings from January through June — the city has seen a 13% decrease compared to the first six months of 2015. But compared to the same time period in 2014, there was a 7% increase, according to the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission’s midyear report.

In total, 53 homicides occurred in the first half of the year, 21 fewer victims than in the same period last year. Nonfatal shootings victims also declined 10% from 298 to 268 in the same time period.

“There is no higher priority for city government than reducing violence,” Mayor Tom Barrett said in a news release. “Yes, the numbers this year are better than last, but our city is still seeing more victims in 2016 than we saw during the past ten years.”

City officials are paying particular attention to the eight intimate-partner homicides in the first six months of 2016 — double the number seen at this time last year.

Intimate-partner violence also led to eight nonfatal shootings during the same time period, compared with only one during the first half of 2015, according to the report.

All of those incidents involved individuals with a prior history of intimate-partner violence in either current or prior relationships.

The rise in lethal intimate-partner violence in Milwaukee has coincided with a statewide rise in domestic-violence homicide. Intimate-partner violence often is considered a subset of domestic violence, which can include violence against other family members or roommates.

In the first half of this year, 39 domestic violence homicides were recorded in the state, nearly 70% higher than average, according to End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.

“This is a rate that we haven’t seen in our history,” said Tony Gibart, the group’s public policy and communications coordinator.

The organization took the unusual step of releasing midyear statistics after local advocates called attention to the number of deaths, he said.

“We don’t know the exact cause of the increase,” Gibart said.

However, he noted it follows statewide policy shifts in gun ownership, including removal of the 48-hour waiting period for handgun purchases.

Use of — or threats with — a weapon and having a gun in the home are warning signs of lethal abuse, according to End Domestic Abuse.

End Domestic Abuse has highlighted several strategies to prevent domestic violence from turning deadly, such as the use of a lethality assessment by front-line police officers. The assessment is a simple form containing 11 questions officers should ask victims. Milwaukee County law enforcement agencies were trained on it in December 2014.

About Ashley Luthern

Ashley Luthern covers crime and breaking news.