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Program Profile: Milwaukee (Wis.) Homicide Review Commission (MHRC)

Evidence Rating: Effective - One study Effective - One study

Date: This profile was posted on May 01, 2014

Program Summary

A program that attempts to reduce homicides and non-fatal shooting provides a unique through a multidisciplinary and multiagency homicide review process. The program is rated Effective. There was a statistically significant, 52 percent, decrease, in the monthly count of homicides in the intervention districts.

Program Description

Program Goals/Key Personnel
The Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission (MHRC) attempts to reduce homicides and nonfatal shootings through a multilevel, multidisciplinary, and multiagency homicide review process. The goals of the commission are to establish and support homicide prevention and intervention strategies using strategic problem analysis.

The MHRC provides a unique forum for addressing violence in Milwaukee, Wis. The program is based on the involvement of law enforcement professionals, criminal justice professionals, and community service providers who meet regularly to exchange information regarding the city’s homicides and other violent crimes to identify methods of prevention from both public health and criminal justice perspectives. The MHRC makes recommendations based on trends identified through the case review process. These recommendations range from micro-level strategies and tactics to macro-level policy change. Many of the recommendations made to date have been implemented.

Program Components
The MHRC was established to address the city’s persistent lethal violence. By creating MHRC, the hope was to better understand the nature of homicide through strategic problem analysis, to develop innovative responses to the problem, and to focus limited enforcement and intervention activities on risks that contributed to homicide.

The MHRC is a multitiered intervention with four levels. Each level consists of participation by a different set of agencies and stakeholders. The levels of intervention reviews are:
  • Real-Time Review: The Milwaukee Police Department responds to each homicide that occurs in the intervention districts by immediate response, investigation, increased patrols, and apprehension of identified subjects. Social services agencies are then notified within 48 hours of the incident and provide immediate crisis intervention, case management, mentoring, emotional support, mental health counseling, and home-based health care to victims’ families.
  • Criminal Justice Review: The criminal justice review involves a monthly assessment of each homicide. Groups that may take part in this review include the community–police liaison, district officers, and members of the violent crimes, gang crimes, homicide, and vice units. Others include the District Attorney, the City Attorney, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Milwaukee Public Schools, the Milwaukee Housing Authority, a medical examiner, the Department of Corrections, the Wisconsin Department of Justice, U.S. Marshals, the Milwaukee High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. This review concentrates on developing descriptions of homicides in the districts. Reviews are conducted by MHRC staff through PowerPoint presentations. Incidents are listed and reviewed one at a time. Meeting participants then weigh in on each case and provide information they have received on each incident. An MHRC staff member records each session.
  • Community Service Provider Review: The community service provider review incorporates insights from various community members based on their organizations. Meetings are designed to look at closed cases and incidents and to determine what community-level factors contributed to the crime. The incidents are looked at retrospectively and with increased scrutiny. This information is then used in the criminal justice review to raise awareness and assist in handling current cases and establishing preventive community resources.
  • Community Review: The fourth and final component of MHRC is the community review meetings. These are designed to educate the community about the nature of homicides and shootings in the intervention districts. This part of the process also is intended to attract interest from other community members and stakeholders in MHRC. Aggregate data from the aforementioned components is presented, and community members were briefed on existing prevention interventions.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Homicide Counts

Azrael, Braga, and O’Brien (2013) found that between January 1999 and December 2006, the implementation of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission was associated with a statistically significant 52 percent decrease in the monthly count of homicides in the intervention districts. During this same time, the control districts experienced a nonsignificant 9.2 percent decrease in homicides (controlling for other covariates).
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
The 2013 study by Azrael, Braga, and O’Brien of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission (MHRC) consisted of three principal components: 1) a formative evaluation, 2) a process evaluation, and 3) an impact evaluation (the focal point of this review is the impact evaluation). The impact evaluation included a statistical analysis of what impact the implemented violence prevention strategies had on crime reduction in the treatment, districts relative to control districts. The goal of the evaluation was to assess whether the MHRC made a measurable short-term impact on homicides in treatment districts relative to control districts.

The evaluation used a quasi-experimental design and involved matching the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) districts into like pairs based on homicide counts, nonfatal shooting counts, and sociodemographic characteristics of the populations in the districts. After the districts were matched based both on their demographic and crime profiles and on the expert opinion of police personnel, one district from each pair was randomly allocated to the MHRC treatment group. This resulted in three districts (Districts 2 and 6 on the south side of the city and District 5 on the north side) serving as the treatment districts, and four districts (1, 3, 4, and 7) serving as the control districts (District 1 experienced no homicides or nonfatal shootings in the period used to match districts, thus it was excluded from consideration for the MHRC intervention and designated as part of the control group).

The MHRC intervention was implemented in August 2005. Time series of monthly counts of homicides between January 1999 and December 2006 in the treatment and control districts were examined to determine whether the MHRC was associated with any reductions in homicides. Regression analyses (which controlled for secular trends, seasonal variations, population changes, and violent crime rate trends) were used to estimate changes in the monthly counts of homicides in the treatment and control districts. Data on homicide counts came from the MPD.

From May 2005 through December 2007, the MHRC reviewed 173 homicides and 99 nonfatal shootings. Eighty percent of violent crimes were committed with firearms, and the majority of victims were black males (65 percent), as were the suspects (80 percent). More than 60 percent of homicides resulted from arguments, each of these either an ongoing issue or a random dispute involving members of a community or gang. Thirty-nine percent of crimes were precipitated by another crime, and 23 percent were associated with a robbery incident. Fewer than 20 percent involved gang members.

The study authors noted that because the necessary pretest and posttest process data was not collected, it was not possible to shed light on the specific mechanisms responsible for any observed reductions in homicide associated with the MHRC interventions. The impact evaluation was designed to measure the value added by the MHRC process, but the authors did not attempt to parse out the varying effects of the specific initiatives that were implemented.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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Work of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission (MHRC) was divided into two committees, a “working group” and “executive committee.” The working group consisted of mid-level personnel, who already had participated in the review process. The executive committee consisted of high-level city and state representatives who met monthly to plan and monitor recommendations that emerged from the review process. Executive committee members influenced decision-making because of their political standing. Staffing for the MHRC included an onsite evaluator who had access to all project materials and agreed to implement the project in the three intervention police districts, while four districts served as the control areas.

Additional information can be found at the MHRC Web site. More information about the implementation of the MHRC, including the participating agencies, the intervention protocol, and the actionable recommendations, is available in the 2013 report, Developing the Capacity to Understand and Prevent Homicide: An Evaluation of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Azrael, Deborah, Anthony A. Braga, and Mallory O’Brien. 2012. Developing the Capacity to Understand and Prevent Homicide: An Evaluation of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice.
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, American Indians/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): High Crime Neighborhoods/Hot Spots

Program Type: Community Crime Prevention , Violence Prevention

Current Program Status: Active

Program Developer:
Mallory O’Brien
Founding Director
Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission
749 West State Street, Third Floor
Milwaukee WI 53233
Phone: 414.935.7985
Fax: 414.935.7987