MILWAUKEE - Numbers from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office show homicides are on pace to surpass 2021's record – and it's not just homicides on the rise. Overdose deaths are set to outpace 2021, too.
Where there are problems, there are usually people searching for solutions, and agencies in Milwaukee communities are working hard to make sure the trends don't continue.
"It’s tough work," said David Sinclair, WestCare Wisconsin Credible Messenger Program director. "We want to be able to instill hope."
Watching as problems in the community grow, WestCare Wisconsin workers in the Harambee neighborhood are trying to get to the root of it.
"We asked the kids, ‘How do you feel?’ Their biggest fear was, ‘I can’t sit outside on my porch,’ ‘I can’t play outside’ because of gun violence. Has it increased? Absolutely," said Felicia Williams, WestCare Wisconsin's Life Skills Training Program director.
"How we plan to do that is engage the community. Community-based, meaning the community would be the catalyst," said Kevin Brown, WestCare Wisconsin's Community-Based Crime Reduction Grant Program director.
The Credible Messenger Program offers services to youth and their families, anything from housing and food to cognitive behavioral therapy and mentoring.
"Within the last week alone, with the connection of our other agencies, we’ve been able to stop about – mediate and stop – about four to five shootings," Sinclair said.
So far in 2022, Milwaukee police data shows shootings are up compared to 2021. Homicides are up, too.
"Once I hear the reports I’m always hoping it’s not one of my youth," said Sinclair.
At the current rate, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office projects 240 homicides by the end of 2022 – compared to a record 220 the year before and 108 a decade ago.
Milwaukee County is also on pace to have 704 overdose deaths – higher than the 612 recorded last year and the 167 seen in 2022.
"We’re trying to make a difference in whatever way we can," Williams said.
That includes WestCare's "A Drug-Free Community Coalition," just one of many programs tackling problems at the grassroots level.
"I believe we can shake the foundation of how the community responds to these types of things," said Sinclair.
WestCare Wisconsin said the biggest thing that can help them out is resources, making sure lawmakers and local leaders get them the funding needed to help communities.