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State Report: Crime Rates in Wisconsin Report

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Updated: Sep 12th, 2022

Statistics compiled by the Wisconsin Statistical Analysis Center Office of Justice Assistance show that the State of Wisconsin realized an across-the-board decline in violent crime as well as property crime rates between 2008 and 2009. Overall crime rates decreased in Wisconsin in 2009, compared to 2008 numbers, particularly in the area of violent crimes such as murder and forcible rape. Specifically, the overall violent crime rate diminished by a rate of six percent, and the rate of crime involving property dwindled by five percent. This report details the numbers behind the decrease and offers some analysis as to their cause.

According to statistics compiled by the Wisconsin Statistical Analysis Center Office of Justice Assistance, as conveyed to state and local law enforcement organizations, the State of Wisconsin realized an across the board decline in violent crime as well as property crime rates, on the whole, in the period between 2008 and 2009 (Christianson, et al., 2010). Specifically, the overall violent crime rate diminished by a rate of six percent, and the rate of crime involving property dwindled by five percent. Since 2008, Christianson et al. (2010) reported that clearance rates for violent crimes as well as crimes that involved property have stayed constant at 50 percent and 26 percent respectively (Christianson, et al., 2010).

What follows is a further breakdown of the applicable statistics. Violent crimes, for the purpose of this report, entail Aggravated Assault, Robbery, Forcible Rape, and Murder. Amongst the breakdown of violent crimes, Aggravated Assault represented 58 percent of incidents. The robbery was next at 33 percent, followed by Forcible Rape at 8 percent. Finally, Murder accounted for 1 percent of the findings (Christianson, et al., 2010).

Amongst these violent crimes, specifically crimes characterized by personal threat or force, Aggravated Assault witnessed the most significant transformation, as represented by a seven percent reduction. In the case of Forcible Rape and Robbery categories, the crime rates also went down: there was a two percent reduction in Forcible Rape and a five percent reduction in Robbery. (Christianson, et al., 2010).

In the case of crimes involving property, Theft constituted 75 percent, while Burglary made up 18 percent. Other property crimes tallied included Motor Vehicle Theft and Arson: Motor Vehicle theft accounted for six percent, and Arson accounted for 1 percent. Within these numbers, Motor Vehicle Theft manifested the most noteworthy adjustment, as shown by its 23 percent overall decrease. Both Burglary and Theft decreased, however, by less substantial numbers: Burglary went down three percent, while Theft decreased by 4 percent. (Christianson, et al., 2010).

Christianson et al (2010) reported that Arson experienced a slight augmentation, at three percent, and this represented the sole crime within the property crime group with an escalation.

Significant findings in the individual crime groupings are detailed here. In the Murder category, the number of people murdered in Wisconsin diminished by 1 percent overall in 2009. The official 2009 murder rate in Wisconsin was 2.6 murders for every 100,000 residents in the state of Wisconsin. In these deaths, Christianson et al (2010) reported that firearms had been used in 65 percent of the cases. Of all the murders reported in Wisconsin in 2009, 88 percent had been solved by arrest, which accounted for an increase of four percent since 2008 (Christianson, et al., 2010). The breakdown of murder victims, according to Christianson et al (2010), involved adults in 80 percent of the incidents.

To delve further into these findings, Christianson et al (2010) reported that Wisconsin law enforcement agencies found that in 33 percent of the murder cases they investigated in 2009, escalating disputes regarding money and property led to the deaths. Situations involving or fuelled by drugs and alcohol represented 14 percent of the murders, while 5 percent of the murders stemmed from relationship clashes and domestic violence. Wisconsin law enforcement did not gain access to the reasons behind 23 percent of the murders they investigated in 2009 (Christianson, et al., 2010).

Christianson et al (2010) stated that 57 percent of the homicides committed in Wisconsin in 2009 happened in a private residence, whereas 31 percent took place in a street, alleyway, or garage. This marks a slight change from the 2008 numbers, wherein 54 percent of the murders came about in a private home, and 34 percent happened in a street, alleyway, or garage. Throughout 2009, the greatest number of homicides happened either on a Saturday or a Tuesday, whereas the lowest numbers occurred on Friday. This data was opposite to the finding in 2008, in which the smallest number of murders took place on Tuesday. Time-wise, 65 percent of the total homicides took place at night, between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am, which represents a decline of 1 percent as compared to 2008 findings. (Christianson, et al., 2010).

In the Forcible Rape category, 2009 saw a lowering of the number of cases relayed to Wisconsin law enforcement – an overall reduction of 1 percent. The rate of Forcible Rape per 100,000 Wisconsin residents in 2009 was 19.8. In these attacks, Christianson et al (2010) reported personal weapons of convenience, such as feet, hands, and fists represented the weapons applied in 72 percent of the Forcible Rape felonies, whereas firearms were the weapons of choice in 6 percent of the sexual assaults conveyed to Wisconsin law enforcement agencies in 2009. Of the Forcible Rapes committed in 2009 in Wisconsin, 59 percent ended in arrest, which marked a decrease of 1 percent since 2008 (Christianson, et al., 2010).

Christianson et al (2010) highlight that under the auspices of the Uniform Crime Reporting program, one crime is reported for each female injured party as a result of a forcible sexual assault, an attempted sexual assault, or an assault that includes the intention to commit sexual assault, with no distinction applied to the age of the victim. Christianson et al (2010) note that arrest records are amassed for all other crimes that denote a sexual component, under the categorization of sex crimes. Statutory sexual assault data, wherein no physical force is applied however the female is below 16 years of age, is compiled alongside the combined arrest total. Sexual attacks that involve males typically are considered aggravated assaults. Male on male sex crimes varies according to the situation surrounding the attack and the harm that the injured male party sustains (Christianson, et al., 2010).

Trend-wise, we see a decrease between 2009 numbers and 2008 numbers in the area of sexual assault and forcible rape. In 2009, there were 1,113 women who reported sexual aggression and forcible rape, which marks a reduction of 1.2 percent compared to the female victims from 2008. For every 100,000 Wisconsin residents, 19.8 forcible rapes occurred, which marked another decrease since 2008 of 1.5 percent. Christianson et al (2010) note that the rate of sexual assault and forcible rape rate has remained more or less the same in Wisconsin since 2004. 2009 marked a five-year low in forcible rapes. The national rate of forcible rape rate in 2009 was 30 for every 100,000 Wisconsin residents. In 2008, the Midwest rate stood at 34.4 for every 100,000 residents (Christianson, et al., 2010).

The Wisconsin Uniform Crime Reporting program also compiles statistics on the particular weapons used in all of the sexual assaults reported throughout the year in question. Christianson et al (2010) show that these statistics reveal the prevalence of so-called personal weapons in violent sexual assaults, including hands, fists, and feet, in the compiled data of 2009. Knives were used in 10 percent of the sexual assault cases investigated, and unidentified or unnamed weapons accounted for 7 percent of the cases. Firearms were applied in six percent of sexual assaults. In 2009, Wisconsin law enforcement arrested 59 percent of the perpetrators of sexual assaults, which is much the same as what was reported in 2008 (Christianson, et al., 2010). The Wisconsin Uniform Crime Reporting program notes that sexual assault numbers have not changed to any great degree in the last five years. Since 2004 there has been a minor increase in the clearance rate for forcible rape charges, up to and including 2008 figures. On the national front, the arrest clearance rate for sexual assault was 40 percent, while the Midwest arrest rate was 31 percent in 2008 (Christianson, et al., 2010).

Christianson et al (2010) state that in 2009 there was also a decrease in the criminal activity of Robbery reported in the state of Wisconsin. A five percent decrease in the number of robbery crimes was realized. For every 100,000 Wisconsin residents, the robbery rate in 2009 was 87 percent. Of these, 54 percent involved the use of firearms. The cost of these particular types of crime was extensive in 2009. As a group, Wisconsin residents suffered nearly $4 million dollars in damages. The average loss per incident amounted to $883. (Christianson, et al., 2010).

Clearance rate wise, 26 percent of reported robberies ended in arrest in 2009, and this number marks a decrease over 2008 data of 1 percent. In terms of robbery trends, 4,886 robberies saw the light of day in 2009. This marks an increase of 5.4 percent over the numbers compiled in 2008. The rate of robberies per 100,000 Wisconsin residents was 87. This number has gone down since 2008 by 5.4 percent. Over the past four years, the robbery rate has steadily declined. On the national front in 2008, the rate of robbery sat at 148 for every 100,000 residents. The Midwest rate was slightly lower than the national rate, at 128 for every 100,000 residents.

Christianson et al (2010) analyzes the types of weapons employed in reported Wisconsin robberies and found that the majority of the perpetrators of these types of crimes rely on guns to achieve their ends. In 2009 firearms factored in 54 percent of all the reported crimes. Significantly, more personal and more violent close-quarter tactics such as the use of hands, fists, and feet appeared in 32 percent of the cases. Knives and other sharp weapons were employed by assailants in 5 percent of the investigated cases. Unknown or undetermined weapons accounted for 9 percent of the cases. Christianson et al (2010) reported that the largest percentage of robberies happened on streets and highways; these locations accounted for 54 percent of all the data collected. Thieves appeared to prefer private residences in 15 percent of the reported incidents. Nine percent of the crimes occurred in commercial establishments such as motels, stores, restaurants, and hotels. In six percent of the cases, gas stations and all-night convenience stores were the locations of the crimes. Banks accounted for three percent of robberies. The 14 percent left over took place in unspecified or idiosyncratic locations (Christianson et al., 2010).

Decreasing violent crime rates in Wisconsin is cause for celebration. However, crime rates, especially in the area of robbery and property crimes, are of particular interest in light of the desperate financial situation that many Americans found themselves in during those years, following the loss of employment. The assumption might have been that as financial problems developed and increased, the crime rate might have followed suit. This did not appear to be the case, however. Lilly et al (2007) highlight the work of Cohen and Felson in:

explaining changes in crime rates over time. In this sense, their perspective initially was stated as a macro-level theory of crime. Jumps in crime rates typically had been attributed to social problems in America that enlarged the pool of motivated offenders. By contrast, Cohen and Felson showed that “substantial increases in the opportunity to carry out predatory violations have undermined society’s mechanism for social control” and heightened lawlessness independent of the characteristics of offenders. They maintained that the convergence in time of suitable targets and the absence of capable guardians can lead to large increases in crime rates without any increase or change in the structural conditions that motivate individuals to engage in crime”…Because homes are routinely left unattended during the day they had become candidates for burglary because the attractive targets within them no longer were as vigilantly attended. (Lilly et al, 2007)

This suggests that the property crime rate and the unemployment rate may have a link. Previously employed individuals were now at home, instead of out at the workplace, and this may have kept their homes and possessions safer than in previous years.

References

Christianson, K., Dornala, K., Phillips, L., Veitenheimer, D., & Waits, K. (2010). Crime in Wisconsin 2009. Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance Statistical Analysis Center.

Lilly, R.J., Cullen, F.T., & Ball, R.A. (2007). Criminology Theory: Context and Consequences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

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