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Crime-and-courts
2018 Racine crime stats: Violent crimes fall by 17%, arrests see 7% rise

RACINE — In 1991, Racine’s violent crime rate was among the highest in the state — even Milwaukee’s rate was lower, according to Wisconsin Department of Justice Assistance data.

That is no longer the case.

“Due to the crack epidemic and related migration of gang members from Chicago in the late 1980s and early 1990s, local crime trends often mirrored crime in Milwaukee and Chicago,” Racine Police Chief Art Howell explained. “(Violent crime) in Racine has dropped to record lows each of the past six years, while this has not been the case in neighboring major cities.”

Reports of violent crime fell by 17 percent within the Racine Police Department’s jurisdiction between 2017 and 2018, according to new statistics reported to the FBI and the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

The total number of arrests carried out by the RPD rose from 2,336 to 2,492 during that same time frame, a 6.2% increase, while the combined total of reported violent and property offenses fell from 2,289 to 2,116, a 7.6% decrease.

Arrests for property crimes — theft, vandalism and fraud — rose by 13% last year, while the total number of reported property crimes fell by 5%. Burglaries continued to become less common with only 351 reported incidents last year, less than half of 2015’s total.

Reports of arson in the city have grown from only six in 2014 to 16 in 2018; five arson arrests were made by the RPD in 2018.

Howell said that the positive shifts can be largely attributed to the department’s “two-pronged approach when it comes to crime reduction,” as well as the improved technology available to law enforcement.

Police: Crime again at an all-time low in 2017

RACINE COUNTY — Burglaries hit an all-time low in Racine County, with 579 reported incidents in 2017, according to data reported to the FBI from local law enforcement agencies. The Racine Police Department attributes their part in the decline to “a department-wide focus on burglary reduction.”

Long-term change

“In the 1960s, police officers didn’t even have radios. They’d have to go to a police call box to radio something in,” Howell said. “Now, the officers can talk to each other with radio and we have computers in the squad cars … technology has really assisted law enforcement.”

Even 40 years ago, Howell said, it would sometimes take weeks to identify patterns in crimes, such as a series of shots-fired incidents or robberies. Police would do this through placing physical pins in maps, hoping to identify patterns or clusters that could lead to identifying suspects and catching a culprit.

“Now, we have a computer database that will show us in real time if there is an emerging trend,” Howell said. “Advances in tech have really changed how policing is done.”

The 10%

The first prong of the department’s approach is targeting past lawbreakers.

“10% of the criminals are responsible for 60% of the crime. We’re most successful when we target that 10%,” Howell said. “Anyone who has presented a threat to public safety is tracked … all the way through the criminal justice process.”

Focusing on those suspected or convicted of burglary has paid great dividends, according to Howell, who became chief in 2012.

In 1974 alone, there were 2,617 burglaries reported. As recently as 1992 there were more than 1,900 in a year. Howell said that the city had averaged more than 1,000 burglaries yearly between 2008 and 2013. In 2018, only 351 burglaries were reported.

Howell said two other things, besides improved tracking of suspected burglars, have contributed to the severe reduction in burglaries.

  • Introducing the Northeastern Wisconsin Pawn Shop Reporting System, where certain items purchased by pawn shops are logged into a database, making it easier to find stolen items that a thief ended up selling.
  • Connecting police commanders and local judges to raise awareness regarding the rising threat of home invasions.



Connecting and relating

The other prong of the RPD’s crime-reduction efforts is relationships.

That starts with the city’s six Community Oriented Policing Houses, aka COP Houses. Howell said that the presence of a COP House on Anthony Lane (formerly Jacato Drive), as well as collaborations with other city departments, has played a major role in reducing crime on Racine’s northwest side.

“The key there is, you can’t develop relationships at the time of a crime. You have to have trust and equity already built, and the way you do that is through our programs.”

The department also is planning on partnering with the Dr. John Bryant Community Center for summer youth programming, as well as introducing some social-media initiatives to make it easier for residents to connect with law enforcement. Through all that, Howell said, he hopes that strengthened community relationships will bring about more efficient and effective police responses, leading to an overall reduction in law-breaking communitywide.

“We’re excited about the support we have locally. They don’t often get enough attention, but the community has been very supportive in terms of using Crime Stoppers (to make anonymous tips),” Howell said. “We get phenomenal support from the community on active crime … We’re often notified in real time.”

“(Violent crime) in Racine has dropped to record lows each of the past six years, while this has not been the case in neighboring major cities.” Racine Police Chief Art Howell

ADALBERTO ALMEIDA, For The Journal Times 

From left, Dave Silvani of Mount Pleasant, Vince Morelli of Racine, Jim Silvani of Mount Pleasant and Jon Morelli from Racine, all from Roma Lodge, make pancakes during Pancake Day on Saturday at Racine's Festival Hall. It was Roma Lodge's first year as event sponsor. For more on Pancake Day, turn to Local, Page A9.


Local
State Politics
Evers cabinet, including Barca, still waiting for confirmation

Kerkman

MADISON — Perhaps none of Gov. Tony Evers’ cabinet picks had more bipartisan support than Democrat Peter Barca for secretary of revenue.

But politics can creep into the most routine of votes.

At the time of the nomination in early January, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who was opposed to several of the cabinet nominees, said “Evers finally got one right” in choosing Barca.

Barca was serving in the Assembly when he was chosen and was a former minority leader for the Democrats.

State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, testified at Barca’s committee hearing in favor of him.

State Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem Lakes, whose district includes part of Somers, said at the time that she will miss Barca’s contributions in the Assembly but added “I am glad to note that the State of Wisconsin will continue to benefit from his leadership.

“I’ve always appreciated Rep. Barca’s experience and statesmanship and have valued our good working relationship in serving Kenosha County,” Kerkman said. “I look forward to working with Rep. Barca in his new role.”

Despite being approved 9-0 in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions in February, Barca has not not received full confirmation as secretary of revenue.

Barca’s confirmation is waiting to be scheduled on the state Senate floor for a confirmation vote. It has been there since Feb. 22.

Waiting for their vote

Barca isn’t the only one waiting. All of Evers’ Cabinet picks have been operating their departments without officially being confirmed by the state Senate.

State Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Somers, whose 22nd District includes past of southeast Racine County, said the secretary-designates have been working with “a dark cloud over their heads.”

“Republican leadership is playing games with all of Evers’ appointments,” Wirch said. “The public wants us to work together … and this doesn’t help.”

Not all the secretary-designates could go back to the jobs they had before they were nominated. On Tuesday, Democrat Tip McGuire won the election for Barca’s old seat, which Barca vacated after he was tapped by the governor.

“They’re just being good soldiers and working on their jobs,” Wirch said of the secretary-designates. “They could be worried. Republicans control the Senate and on a simple party-line vote, they’re out of a job if their appointment came up.”

On Thursday, Evers told a joint session of The Journal Times and Kenosha News editorial boards that the secretary-designates are running their offices “as they would if they’re confirmed.”

Evers said he suspects the confirmations have been held up because of the issue of 82 appointees to various state posts under Gov. Scott Walker during the lame-duck legislative session held before Evers was sworn in as governor.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday voted 4-3 to restore all 82 appointees.

The ruling affects 15 people Evers had not reappointed after a lower court said it was legal for him to, essentially, fire them. Evers argued the appointees were invalidated after a lower court ruled that the entire lame-duck session, where Republicans took powers away from Evers and the incoming Democratic attorney general, was unconstitutional. Days later, an appeals court put that ruling on hold, creating more confusion about the status of the 15 people Evers did not reappoint.

The underlying legal case over the validity of the lame-duck session continues. The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in that case for May 15.

Wanggaard said the situation with the appointees affected the confirmation timeline of Evers’ cabinet.

“When Gov. Evers took away the pay and positions from 82 validly appointed and confirmed individuals, he created a chaotic situation with all appointments, including his own Cabinet,” Wanggaard said in a statement. “When that court case gets resolved, I’m sure we’ll see confirmations for the individuals that are qualified to serve in those positions.”

Despite the issue with the appointees not being directly connected to the cabinet picks, Evers said the Senate could have voted on his nominations, but Republicans held things up.

Evers said he is confident his Cabinet picks will get their confirmation votes.

“The Senate hasn’t been in session much,” Evers said adding “It’s just a matter of time.”

Wirch said he has served under five governors “and this has not happened with any of the governors before this.”

“I think its sour grapes that carried over from the election,” Wirch said. “We should get back to doing the people’s business and stop fighting among ourselves.”


Kerkman


Howell


Pete Wicklund /   

Evers


Mick Burke / Photo courtesy of Austin Schultz 

324 Main St., currently Funky Hannah's, and 322 Main St., Plumb Gold. The former storefront is to become Plumb Silver.


Local
To Our Readers
The best of the best comics launched

Nearly 2,000 readers of The Journal Times and Kenosha News voted in our comics survey in February.

Using those surveys, we were able to come up with the Best of the Best comics, which we begin presenting in both papers today.

When you pull out our comics section you’ll see some long-time favorites and some intriguing newcomers. Your top favorites in the survey are all in the new package.

We hope this will start you on some new comics adventures, both Sunday and daily. Our daily page, starting Monday, also will be Best of the Best selections, running in both papers.

What’s new is that Astrograph horoscopes will now be found in the comics section on Sundays, as well as on the daily comics page throughout the week.

Also, the puzzles that normally appeared in the comics section — sudoku, the daily crossword and bridge — can be found in the money section this week on Page C5. Starting May 12, look for them in the Sunday Family Life section.

Your favorite comics, according to The Journal Times survey results were: “Pickles,” “Family Circus,” “Luann,” “Ziggy” and “Blondie.” The least favorite comic was “Marmaduke,” with more people voting online to eliminate the strip than to keep it.

In Kenosha, “Crankshaft” was the most popular strip, along with “Lola” and “For Better or For Worse” and in light of the vote totals all three are being introduced to Racine readers in the new package. “Garfield” also is returning for Racine readers, along with newcomers “Rubes” and “Slylock Fox.”

Change can be jarring, but in this case a change in comics might bring you new laughs and adventures. Enjoy them.


Wanggaard