Continuing gun crime trend has local officials concerned

Two more weekend shooting incidents add to uptick in gun crime in La Crosse dating back to 2017
Increasing Gun Violence

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – An uptick in gun-related crimes continues in La Crosse after two new gun incidents over the weekend. Police officials say the trend goes back to 2017 and they are concerned for the safety of the community.

The courts know a La Crosse homicide case as number 2020CF000436. However, a local father who knows it as the case involving his son Anthony Fimple who was shot and killed this past June. His death is one of the too many gun-related incidents in La Crosse that has the attention of local law enforcement and prosecutors.

“Any time we have a gun crime or a shooting crime in the city of La Crosse we’re concerned,” said Capt. Jason Melby of the La Crosse Police Department.

La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke is also aware of the problem.

“This year it seems to be getting worse,” Gruenke said.

Fimple’s story highlights a problem that started long before the pandemic began.

“We specifically noticed a spike in gun-related calls and shooting related calls back in as early as 2017,” Melby said.

Gun Trends

A graph released by the La Crosse Police Department in 2019 showing an increase in gun-related crimes.

Shooting calls, felon in possession of firearm charges, and weapons seized have all climbed significantly according to La Crosse Police over the past few years. Captain Jason Melby says gun crimes are usually connected with other illegal activities. Drugs are a big factor.

“Very rarely do we just come across somebody who’s a felon who’s got a duck hunting gun and going out duck hunting,” Melby said.

La Crosse Police have expanded their partnership with the federal prosecutor’s office.

“We have individuals who have multiple gun charges locally (who) end up going into federal court and receiving longer sentences,” Melby said.

Gruenke said gun violence is a problem across the country and it’s up to communities to work together to fix it.

“I don’t think you can expect the police or the system to try to keep things from happening,” Gruenke said. “We usually show up after the damage is already done.”

Police are investigating two more shooting incidents near 300 Pearl Street and around 800 Main Street this past weekend. Melby said there’s even a lack of reporting on gun crimes because victims of shootings are often involved in illegal activity too.

“We’re finding now people are getting shot showing up at the hospital and not reporting it to the police,” Melby said.

There’s an obvious reason why gun crime has the attention of Gruenke and Melby.

“When you have guns it can end a life instantly you can’t go back on that,” Gruenke said.

Gruenke said people who own guns have a large responsibility.

“If you own a gun be a responsible gun owner,” Gruenke said. “Keep it in a safe place, keep it locked up if possible, keep ammunition away from it. We have way too many cases where people steal guns.”

He said La Crosse will not be able to arrest and prosecute its way out of gun violence. It will take everyone to save another innocent life from ending up as another case number.

“The stronger the community the less crime there’s going to be of all kinds,” Gruenke said.

Melby said there’s no proven correlation between the recent shooting incidents and the pandemic.