More than half of 2021 homicides in Milwaukee remain unsolved

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee is on pace for another record-breaking year of homicides and the majority of those cases are going unsolved.

Nequesia Terrell was 14 years old and recently accepted to Milwaukee High School of the Arts. Her mom says life was just getting started for the teen.

"QuaQua was a very energized, smart, loving, caring and courageous young lady with so much potential," said Beverly Terrel, Nequesia's mother.

But it all ended Oct. 4, 2020, when Nequesia was shot and killed. It happened just after 2 a.m. near 11th and Burleigh. The teen was riding in the back seat of a car when gunfire erupted and she was caught in the crossfire.

"This last year has been horrible," Terrell said. "All I have left of my daughter is memories, and she will never make any more."

Nequesia's case is one of more than 80 unsolved homicides in 2020. Winfred Jackson Jr.'s is another.

The 18-year-old was killed in Washington Park on March 17, 2020.

"We're at a brick wall," said Leatrice Martin, Jackson Jr.'s aunt. "We're at a dead-end, after a year and a half, we don't know anything."

And it's getting worse. So far in 2021, only 45 percent of cases are cleared, that's a seven-year low. Below is a look at the total number of homicides, the number cleared and the percentage.

  • 2015 – 147 homicides, 85 homicides cleared (58%)
  • 2016 – 142 homicides, 95 homicides cleared (67%)
  • 2017 – 119 homicides, 93 homicides cleared (78%)
  • 2018 – 99 homicides, 75 homicides cleared (76%)
  • 2019 – 97 homicides, 75 homicides cleared (77%)
  • 2020 – 190 homicides, 104 homicides cleared (58%)

Part of the problem is the sheer volume of crime in Milwaukee. Homicides are up more than 95 percent since 2019 and resources are stretched thin.

Mayor Tom Barrett's proposed 2022 budget calls to cut 25 officers, following cuts of 60 and 120 officers the past two years. The mayor says it's not by choice but it is financially necessary due to pension costs and a lack of state support.

"Many of the video recording systems may only hold data or that recording for 24 to 72 hours," said Inspector Paul Formolo with the Milwaukee Police Department. "If we're going from scene to scene to scene and we're unable to do the follow-up on the previous case, we may potentially lose that video evidence. So that's just one example of dealing with capacity."

Inspector Paul Formolo says another problem is the community doesn't want to work with police.

"There's been a decrease, I would say, in the level of cooperation in a post-George Floyd era," Inspector Formolo said. "You know and it's our job, in executive leadership, to help restore that legitimacy between the police department and the community."

For families of the victims, the silence from the community is heartbreaking and frustrating.

"We know that people know," said Nicole Crown, Nequesia's aunt. "And we know that some people can come forward but they have not."

"In my gut, in my soul, in my heart, I know someone knows something," Martin added.

One group trying to bridge the gap between the community and police is Milwaukee Crime Stoppers

"We can help families of unsolved crimes start healing," said Ryan Patte, vice president of Milwaukee Crime Stoppers. "A lot of crime comes from trauma and if we can start the healing process with people, maybe we can stop future crimes from happening."

In the two years since the program started, Crime Stoppers tips solved 40 crimes, including four homicides.

It's not affiliated with police and is completely anonymous.

"Anytime a citizen would call Crime Stoppers or use the p3 tip line, it goes to an out-of-state call center and their number is actually scrambled," Patte said.

Inspector Formolo says police need help from the public.

"It's gotta be a partnership between the community and us to reduce the level of violence that's taking place," Inspector Formolo said. "Especially among our young people in the community."

There are cash rewards in Jackson Jr. and Nequesia's cases.

"You gotta be accountable," Terrell said. "When you go to jail, your family can still call you. They can still do birthdays, so much, you know, I can never pick up a phone and call my daughter."

If you know anything about these crimes or others, visit Milwaukee Crime Stoppers here or call 414-224-TIPS. Your call is anonymous.

You will receive a pin number and you can use that number to check back to see if the case is solved and to check if you qualify for any reward money.

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