Green Bay City Council gets analysis of gun violence
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Green Bay City Council members got a peek at the much-anticipated analysis from The National Institute of Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR) regarding the city’s gun crime statistics for the past three years at its Tuesday, June 7 meeting.
“I’ll be honest, we did not expect that there would be as much information and intelligence being gathered in Green Bay (with it) being a small city with not that large of a gun violence problem,” David Muhammad, the executive director of the NICJR, said. “So, we actually were impressed. That being said, there certainly can be improvements.”
Work with the NICJR started after the city saw an uptick in gun violence since 2019.
The study looked at Green Bay’s eight homicides, 23 non-fatal injury shootings and 129 other shots fired incidents from 2019-21.
The deep dive analysis took into account a variety of factors to generate data points aimed at helping solve and/or address the root cause of the issue.
The report shows a high percentage of those involved in gun violence in Green Bay are men, Black and familiar with the criminal justice system, meaning they’ve been arrested before.
Muhammad said in Green Bay, most gun violence is tightly concentrated on a small number of very high risk young Black male adults (ages 18 to 34) that share a common set of risk factors.
Of those involved in homicides and shootings (suspects and victims), 89.9% were male and 54.7% were Black.
Suspects and victims of shots fired events were also primarily male (66.4%) and Black (61.5%).
The data shows that though Black residents make up only 4% of the overall population in the City of Green Bay, approximately 55% of victims and suspects in homicides/shootings and 62% of victims and suspects in shots fired incidents were Black.
“The vast majority of Black men in Green Bay are not involved in gun violence,” Muhammad said. “It’s a small, small population, and a good number of these incidents could be identified ahead of time. The violence is somewhat predictable and are therefore preventable.”
Muhammad said though some associate gun violence to street groups or gangs, shootings are often precipitated by a trivial conflict, like a simple argument or a feud on social media.
“We get into some sort of conflict sometimes that plays out on social media, and that escalates to a shooting and the circumstance was around a personal dispute, but both were also members of local neighborhood cliques,” he said. “And though as we’ll see a large percentage of the individuals involved in shootings are members of local cliques or groups, that doesn’t mean that’s the reason for the shooting.”
The study shows the City of Green Bay’s homicide rate is consistently lower than the U.S. average.
It’s a good place to be, District 9 Alderperson Brian Johnson said, but he also stressed the importance of not becoming complacent.
“Green Bay is still a very safe community, and we are below the national average on some of this stuff,” he said. “But one of the things that I don’t ever want our community to do is become desensitized to growth in crime that we don’t want in our community. And I think there are ways for us to be proactive about addressing that. I think, having (the NICJR) here today, talking about this is one of those very first steps.”
As for what’s next, one of NICJR’s recommendations includes the creation of a gun violence reduction unit – which the city has already implemented with its Neighborhood Response Team.
Police Chief Chris Davis said the department hopes to add the two-officer team soon.
“As staffing levels improve, we hope to increase that from two officers to four,” he said.
Recommendations also include implementing a reduction strategy and increasing investment in community resources, both of which Davis said he is in support of.
“I agree with all the recommendations because I think they are things that have shown to work in other places,” he said. “Giving people who are at risk of getting into this situation, either as a perpetrator or as a victim – and sometimes those two roles become interchangeable over time – support that’s tailored to them, that also is combined with accountability. And we do need to send that message to folks that, if despite all our best efforts at trying to help you do something better with your life, you still insist on picking up a gun and going out and threatening people’s safety. There is accountability for that. That approach really, really works.”