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Surge in gun-related crimes in Green Bay, Eastern Wisconsin draw federal attention

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 4:39 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A surge in gun violence in Green Bay, that we first started reporting this summer, has now caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice and federal prosecutors.

The U.S. attorney that prosecutes cases for Eastern Wisconsin calls the spike in gun-related crimes ‘unacceptable.’

“We’re making a chief priority to focus on firearms prosecutions, and the idea here is very simple. If you keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, you prevent them from using those guns,” said Attorney Matthew Krueger, who prosecutes federal cases in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

His attention is on firearms-related crimes, and Green Bay is in the spotlight.

So far in 2020, Green Bay Police have investigated five homicides involving guns.

They have 56 confirmed or probable shootings.

Most of those, police say, are driven by drugs or arguments between small groups of people.

We’ve reported how the gun violence has prompted Green Bay Police to create task forces and teams to target trouble areas.

Now there’s federal attention coming to the problem with Krueger telling us he’s concerned about the surge and its impact on the community.

“I’ll be speaking with the Green Bay Police chief later today,” Krueger said Wednesday. “We want to be an aggressive partner, seeing how we can leverage the federal, state and local resources in partnership together to attack this problem.”

Gun violence has gotten bad enough in Milwaukee this year, Krueger says the city is on pace to double its homicide numbers.

The Department of Justice launched Operation Legend there this summer, assigning more agents and resources to target gun-related crimes, leading to 50 people charged and counting.

Krueger wants to see that kind of focus extend to Green Bay.

“For example, increased ATF agents, so we’re in active discussions to assess where are those resources most needed, and with the spike in Green Bay, we are committed to trying to attack that problem also,” said Krueger.

Gun-related crimes in Eastern Wisconsin had dropped the last two years, but 2020 is the opposite, forcing this renewed crackdown resulting in stiff penalties in federal prison.

“An individual named Jonathon Erickson, prior felony conviction. The Manitowoc Police Department was called out to a disorderly conduct sort of report, and they encountered him also with a loaded 9mm handgun, and because of his criminal history -- he also had some narcotics with him -- he has agreed to plead guilty and agreed to a recommended sentence of nine years in federal prison,” explained Krueger, giving one example of the kind of sentences handed down in firearms-related cases.

Krueger points to the pandemic, economic uncertainty, what he calls a reduced respect for law enforcement, and drug trafficking for driving a spike in firearm-related crimes.

“I want people to know that if they possess firearms illegally, we will be aggressive in prosecuting them and bringing them before a federal judge to face time in federal prison,” said Krueger.

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