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Reality Check: Ad attacks Barrett over Milwaukee crime stats

Published On: May 30 2012 06:37:50 PM CDT
Updated On: May 31 2012 05:37:02 PM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

Gov. Scott Walker is using his latest ad to attack Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on the alleged misreporting of crime numbers in the city.

"This 2-year-old spent six days in intensive care after being severely beaten," the ad says, while showing a city of Milwaukee police report on screen. "But Tom Barrett's police department didn't consider it a violent crime."

WISC-TV found that this needs clarification. First of all, while Barrett is in charge of the city, Chief Edward Flynn is in charge of the Milwaukee Police Department, and it's the Police Department's actions which were scrutinized in a recent Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel investigation saying the department misreported crimes.

The newspaper highlighted the case of Karmari Curtis, the 2-year-old referenced in the ad. His stepfather's beating of him in 2010 was misclassified as child abuse rather than aggravated assault when reported to the state and federal government, according to the newspaper.

How much oversight does the mayor have for the Police Department and these numbers?

The mayor hired Flynn and has previously lauded his work on the issue, saying the declining crime numbers were indicative of the city's success. But day-to-day, the mayor's office said, Barrett did not have direct contact with these figures.

"Tom Barrett claims 'violent crime is down 15.5 percent,'" the ad says, playing a quote from Barrett. "But the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel found that hundreds of beatings, stabbings and child abuse cases were never even counted."

WISC-TV found this is misleading. First, the video of Barrett's quote is from July of 2009 and is comparing the first six months of 2009 to the first six months of 2008. The Journal-Sentinel's investigation didn't look at 2008 at all and only part of 2009, so this isn't comparing apples to apples -- or at least isn't using video from an accurate year.

The paper's analysis shows the correctly reported numbers would have shown a 1 percent increase in violent crime from 2010 to 2011, rather than the previously reported 2.3 percent decline.

Secondly, the paper didn't claim that the crimes weren't counted at all. It said the crimes weren't counted toward the violent crime rate. The investigation showed errors in crime reporting didn't change their prosecution, but rather changed the story that's told about how violent crime goes up or down in a community.

"Violent crime in Milwaukee is up, and Tom Barrett isn't telling the truth," the ad finishes, showing a quote on screen next to Barrett's picture saying, "There has to be a failure of leadership ... it's suspicious and probably improper."

WISC-TV found this is also misleading. The quote shown is not referencing Barrett, but instead quotes a criminology professor who was questioning Flynn's leadership of the Police Department.

Barrett, since this report came out last week, said he didn't believe the misreporting was malicious and that if crime numbers were wrong, they would be corrected following an FBI audit to be completed this fall.  

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