July 11, 2013

Violent crime in Milwaukee up 5% in the first half of 2013 — mostly because of robberies, which are up almost 20%.

But overall crime is down 8%, because of a decrease in property crimes.

This seems to mean the thieves of Milwaukee have decided it's easier to confront people on the street than to break into their homes, but why would such a sudden shift in preference occur? Writing that question, I pictured the classic robber pointing a gun at a guy in a your-money-or-your-life scenario, but, reading further, I see it's all about the smartphones. Folks on the street with their iPhones on display are conspicuous targets, and all the thief needs to do is grab it and run. The solution to this big spike in robberies is for the damned phones to be designed to be utterly unusable if stolen. Or unusual except for one thing: to lead the police to the thief.

But if property crimes are down, maybe the stealable iPhone problem isn't a problem at all. Maybe the good people of Milwaukee and elsewhere are better off having the thieves running around outside, snatching smartphones, instead of breaking into houses. But how long can that go on? At some point, no one will display a phone in public. You may think: Great! Another nonproblem. I'm sick of these idiots who walk around texting and fiddling with apps.

But the police in Milwaukee are acting like they are doing something about the smartphone theft problem, which isn't all mere snatching, and does include armed robbery. One idea is: Teach citizens to use passwords and tracking apps. (If we use tracking apps, will they really expend resources going after the robbers? Or are the tracking apps just supposed to deter robbers?) The other idea:
Investigators also are focusing on local stores that are reselling stolen phones to try to cut off a secondary market....
That sounds so lame: focusing. Show me the prosecutions.
Mayor Tom Barrett [said he] was pleased that the number of crime victims was down. But he said he was concerned about a robbery increase.
Pleased and concerned. Again, lame. (Barrett, by the way, is the Democratic politician who lost to Governor Walker in the 2010 election and then, a year and a half later, lost to him again in the recall election.)
Tony Gibson, a member of the Johnsons Park Neighborhood Association, said the Police Department had informed neighborhood groups of crime trends during monthly meetings.

"It takes a lot of involvement from residents, from everyday folks" to work with police, plan community programs and keep crime down, Gibson said.
So you want people to pitch in with the neighborhood watch type activities that we've seen condemned in the overwhelming assault on George Zimmerman? Good luck eliciting that sort of community service. It's been smeared in the press as the pastime of racist wannabe cops.

What I learned from reading this article:

It's a good thing that Tom Barrett lost the 2010 election to Scott Walker, because Barrett, unlike Walker, would have taken the federal money to build a high speed train line between Madison and Milwaukee, and we the people of Madison are not going to be wanting to go to Milwaukee these days, because you can't toddle around the streets gazing into your iPhone there.