- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2009

MILWAUKEE (AP) | Killings dropped by a third here last year, making Wisconsin’s largest city among the nation’s most successful in tackling its 2008 murder rate.

While New York and Chicago saw an uptick in slayings last year, other cities including Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Los Angeles had fewer violent deaths in 2008 than 2007.

And though a study released Monday by Northeastern University showed black teenagers killing each other in rising numbers, Milwaukee stands out. The number of black males between the ages of 15 and 29 who were killed dropped nearly two-thirds, from 54 in 2007 to 19 last year. Total homicides dropped 32 percent, from 105 in 2007 to 71 last year - the lowest number since 1985. The city also saw fewer gun deaths.

“I think today Milwaukee is allowed to feel good about itself because this reduction is the work of many people. … This year they saw a return on their investment,” Police Chief Edward Flynn said during a news conference Friday.

Milwaukee police union President John Balcerzak said Chief Flynn’s ideas are contributing to the declines in crime. He pointed to the creation of a neighborhood task force, the assignment of 57 new police officers to foot patrols across the city and the use of limited-duty officers to handle by phone lower-priority complaints.

“I think he’s brought a lot of pleasant surprises to the city of Milwaukee that are helping,” Mr. Balcerzak said.

While the nation’s preliminary crime statistics won’t be released by the FBI until spring, a review of unofficial figures released by 25 of the 52 police departments in cities with a population of more than 350,000 showed 15 of the 25 had fewer slayings last year than in 2007.

Detroit had 344 slayings, a 13 percent drop from the 396 in 2007; Philadelphia’s 332 killings were a 15 percent drop from the 392 in 2007; and the 234 homicides in Baltimore were 17 percent fewer than the 282 the year before.

Cleveland recorded 102 homicides in 2008, down from a 13-year high of 134 in 2007, but Mayor Franklin Jackson wasn’t celebrating the 24 percent drop.

“We’re very disappointed,” Mr. Jackson said. “If one person gets killed, it’s a problem. These are not just statistics. Somebody cared about these people.”

In the nation’s biggest cities, homicides in New York rose 5.2 percent, to 522 from 496 the year before, while slayings in Los Angeles were down - 376 in 2008 compared to 400 the prior year.

Homicides in Los Angeles have plunged 27 percent during the past five years, which police officials attributed to a reduction of gang-related crime.

“We have shown time and again that if you invest in law enforcement and hold police accountable … you will absolutely have a very definitive effect on crime,” said Los Angeles Assistant Police Chief Earl Paysinger.

Houston, Minneapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., Boston, San Jose, Calif., San Francisco, Oakland, Calif., Tulsa, Okla., also had fewer slayings last year than the year before.

Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Washington, D.C., Tucson, Ariz., Kansas City, Mo., St. Louis, Indianapolis, Seattle and Charlotte, N.C., had more.

Washington ended 2008 with 186 homicides, up from 181 in 2007.

In the 25 cities there were a combined 4,291 slayings in 2008, an overall 2.7 percent drop from the 4,409 recorded in 2007. Data were not reviewed for another 27 cities classified by the Census Bureau as having a 2007 population of more than 350,000, however.

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