Sylville K. Smith’s shooting helped to deepen tensions between Milwaukee residents and law enforcement at a time when homicides in the city were breaking records. August was the deadliest month the city has seen in 25 years. Milwaukee even beat Chicago for homicides this summer — and Chicago was also experiencing one of its worst periods. There were four homicides per 100,000 people here over the summer, compared with 3.3 per 100,000 in Chicago.
The 2016 homicides follow unprecedented levels in 2015. The financial news site 24/7 Wall St. reported that in 2015 Milwaukee was the nation’s 10th deadliest city and the second deadliest in the region, behind Detroit. Last year, Milwaukee experienced more murders per capita than Chicago and 84 percent of the victims were black.
The 145 homicides in 2015 represented a 70.6 percent spike from just three years ago — one of the nation’s sharpest increases. And this year is en route to exceed that horrible record. As of Dec. 10, there had already been 139 homicides in the city.
Local officials blame the high concentration of guns in the city. Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said this summer that 80 percent of the city’s homicides were the result of gun violence.
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