Young people caught in the middle of Milwaukee are rising in violent crime

MILWAUKEE (AP) – Last month, a 47-year-old Oshkosh woman tried to stop four teenagers from stealing a car at a Holiday Inn Express in Wauwatosa. The woman, Sunita Balogun-Olayiwola, was killed when one of the boys got into her car, pushed her out and drove her over several times.

The criminal complaint contains horrific details about the incident that led to the 13-year-old boy being charged as an adult in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Despite being 13 years old, the boy now faces six charges and up to 115 years in prison if convicted.

This case is extreme. But it’s one of many violent crimes in Milwaukee County involving young people.

Nick DeSiato, chief of staff at the Milwaukee Police Department, said teens have easy access to guns. And younger people are stealing cars and driving recklessly, which is all connected, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

“While they may seem like a separate category, a reckless driver who hits another vehicle and kills someone is still some form of homicide or the contributing cause of someone else’s death,” DeSiato said.

Community activist Vaun Mayes says that when he was a child, he also committed crimes. Mayes grew up in one of Milwaukee’s toughest neighborhoods – Franklin Heights. He now has numbers tattooed on his fingers that represent the block he ran when he was growing up on 25th Street and Auer Avenue. Groups representing about five different blocs used to fight to protect their neighborhoods, Mayes said. As a 15-year-old, he did what he called “block banking.”

But now the stakes are much higher.

Now 34, he says, it’s still happening. But today, children as young as 12 use weapons instead of fists and post the violence on social media to gain fame.

“It’s like reality TV on steroids,” he said.

A video posted on Facebook Live and obtained by WPR shows three young women dancing and laughing while pointing a semi-automatic weapon at the screen. Sometimes the videos show teenagers or young people in stolen vehicles recklessly driving through crowded city streets.

Killings have increased by about 32 percent in major cities across the country, but DeSiato said no city has been hit harder than Milwaukee, which has seen an increase three times the national average.

There were 190 homicides in Milwaukee last year, the most recorded. Throughout last week, the city was in the process of passing that number with already more than 160 murders so far this year. More than 740 people have been shot so far this year in Milwaukee, an increase of nearly 25 percent over last year.

Today’s version of “block banging” cannot be blamed entirely for the increase. Homicide killings are on the rise, and DeSiato said many shootings are retaliation for past crimes.

A very public example of this was in September, when five people were shot by a guard in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood for a 16-year-old homicide victim.

Milwaukee’s Homicide Review Commission, headed by the Medical College of Wisconsin, found that about 37 percent of the killings in Milwaukee are the result of a fight. Another 34 percent are classified as “unknown.” DeSiato says these cases are tough, although police believe the deaths are the result of a fight, they can not prove whether they are retaliation or not.

“One of the things we’re concerned about is the legitimacy of a threat of retaliation … is this something we can get ahead of and be proactive (about), whether it’s through law enforcement or one of Our partners? ” said DeSiato. “We are working on intelligence, we are working on communicating with those who have observed the incident, close family members and other members of society so that it does not continue.”

Mayes grew up without a home and has had her share of problems with the police. Today, he is a community activist with a group he started, called ComForce MKE, which goes out into neighborhoods like Franklin Heights and Sherman Park and works with residents. Mayes and his team are also active in crime scenes, interviewing witnesses and trying to keep the peace.

Mayes said children have a “live fast, die young attitude” that has made everything more dangerous in the city. But that does not mean they are not still children. Many without much family support.

“A lot of these kids, if you talk to them when they’re in these cars, they have these weapons, they’re like the toughest person ever,” Mayes said. “But if you catch them outside of it, they are not like that at all, they are very scared, fragile, fragile, sensitive.”

Some residents of communities like Sherman Park are skeptical that law enforcement can curb violence.

Jordan Morales is a member of the Sherman Park Community Association and said it feels like there are no legal consequences for crimes.

“It feels like the law is put on hold in Milwaukee … People who want to take advantage of the city know that police resources are strained, they know the average resident of Milwaukee is afraid to confront bad behavior, so they know they have a blank check to do what they want, ”said Morales, who is not related to former police chief Alfonso Morales.

But Morales, who has lived in the Sherman Park neighborhood for three years with his five children, said he has no plans to move.

Like many of the century-old houses in Sherman Park, this neighborhood has really good bones. It just requires some extra investment here, some extra attention from the city. “I’ve thought about it, but I’m pretty committed to this neighborhood,” Morales said. “Like many of the century-old houses in Sherman Park, this neighborhood has really good bones. It just requires some extra investment here, some extra attention from the city.”

According to the Milwaukee Homicide Review, there were 11 homicides in Sherman Park from January 1 to October 6, which equates to 16 casualties per year. square kilometers. In the same period, there were 27 non-fatal shootings.

When about a dozen shots were fired one afternoon in October, Patricia Norman and her daughter barely flew back. Even though the shots sounded close to their quiet, wood-paneled street and they were out on the porch.

“I’m not scared,” Norman said. “If I feel like it’s really close and I’m sitting out here, I know I need to run my ass in the house.”

Norman moved back to Milwaukee about two years ago and loves the city but sometimes feels hopeless.

“If they can not get the weapons out of the children’s hands, there is nothing no one can do and it will not stop,” Norman said.

During the 13-year-old boy’s indictment in Milwaukee County Circuit Court following the murder of Balogun-Olayiwola, Judge Audrey Skwierawski said the nature of his charges, including first-degree ruthless murder, could not be more serious.

The boy told the court he understood. He also said he would call his mother.

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

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