Dan O’Donnell takes down Governor Evers’ claim that Wisconsin’s out-of-control crime rate is due to people “becoming stir crazy” during the pandemic.
Sep. 23, 2022
Perspective by Dan O’Donnell
Of all the dumb excuses that have been made for Wisconsin’s out-of-control violent crime rate, Governor Evers’ latest might just be the dumbest yet.
“I think that as a result of the pandemic, we’ve seen lots of bad behavior as a result of people becoming stir crazy,” he said during an appearance in Mosinee this week.
What is this, The Shining? Heeeeeeeeere’s the truth: Violent crime increased after Wisconsin’s Safer at Home lockdown order was struck down. When people were actually confined to their homes, there was no discernible increase, but when they took to the streets after George Floyd’s death and the “Defund the Police” movement hit its stride, crime skyrocketed.
Evers’ Safer at Home Order went into effect on March 24th, 2020 and was struck down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court 51 days later on May 13th. In those 51 days, there were 27 homicides in Milwaukee, the state’s most violent city. In the 51 days immediately after the lockdown ended (May 13th to July 2nd), which coincided with the Floyd riots, there were 29 murders. In the next 51-day period (July 3rd to August 22nd), there were another 29.
The end of Summer, the typical peak season for murders in Milwaukee, didn’t bring about an end to the violence in 2020. As society gradually reopened further in the Fall, the homicide rate kept rising. There were 33 murders in the 51-day period from August 23rd to October 12th, and 32 in the 51-day period from October 13th to December 2nd.
In 2021, as Milwaukee Public Schools returned to classroom learning and the city reopened even more fully, there were seven more homicides than there were in 2020. In 2022, with society almost fully open, Milwaukee is on pace for 60 more homicides than it saw in 2021. No one is locked down, no one is stir crazy, and yet Milwaukee has reported the fourth-highest increase in homicides in the entire country.
Across the state, violent crime increased 8.9% from 2019 to 2020 while the nationwide rate was up 4.6%. Nationally, murders jumped 29.4%, but in Wisconsin they were up a full 62%. Did Wisconsinites go more stir crazy than people in other states? Or was the massive increase in violent crime here the result of leadership and policy that was far more ruinous?
The pandemic didn’t release 15% of the state’s prison inmates in just two years; Evers did. The pandemic didn’t refuse to remove a Milwaukee County District Attorney who has routinely let dangerous criminals out of custody with low or no bail, including the Waukesha Parade Massacre suspect; Evers did. The pandemic didn’t let that District Attorney prosecute fewer than four in 10 felony cases referred to it; Evers did.
Nationally, murders jumped 29.4%, but in Wisconsin they were up a full 62%. Did Wisconsinites go more stir crazy than people in other states?
Earlier this year, Evers vetoed a series of bills from the Republican Legislature that would have put more police officers on the streets, protect Department of Corrections workers from inmate attacks, set mandatory minimum sentences for repeat theft offenses, and target criminals out on parole, probation, or extended supervision who commit new crimes.
Instead, he paroled 270 convicted murderers and attempted murders and 44 child rapists. He expedited the pardon process so that he could pardon 600 criminals, more than any Governor in Wisconsin’s history and nearly as many as the previous five Governors combined did in 35 years.
The pandemic makes for a convenient scapegoat, but Wisconsin’s crime rate hasn’t skyrocketed because people are stir crazy; it has skyrocketed because Wisconsin has a Governor who has allowed it to.