Milwaukee received some bleak attention on Sunday night after English filmmaker Louis Theroux’s documentary “Murder Town” aired on BBC Two. The third and final installment of “Dark States” focused on the city’s gun crime and homicide rates.
In the episode, Theroux meets a Milwaukee resident named Shawnda who lives in what Theroux says is “one of the most lawless blocks in Milwaukee.” In a video on BBC Two’s Facebook page, Shawnda walks Theroux through the weapons in her possession. At one point she justifies having weapons at the ready by recounting how her house was shot at the night before.
According to the episode’s description on BBC iPlayer, Theroux accompanies a patrol of District 5 with the Milwaukee Police Department and follows an investigation with the city’s homicide division. Theroux also spends time with the family of Sylville Smith, who was fatally shot by a Milwaukee Police Officer in 2016, sparking riots in Sherman Park.
While the episode is unavailable to watch in the states, BBC Two has posted clips on their Facebook and YouTube pages. These videos have a slew of comments both supporting what is shown in the documentary and criticizing the film for depicting Milwaukee unfairly. Many comments argue that the high crime is secluded to a few neighborhoods, and that the city is not the murder town it is being depicted as. Others argue that lack of personal experience with crime does not mean that it isn’t a problem throughout Milwaukee.
According to The Telegraph, there were a number of “lingering shots of the deceased,” which also sparked questions about how and why the BBC Crew was granted so much access. While the film crew were granted permission by the Milwaukee Police Department to do ride-alongs and shadow personnel, Sgt. Tim Gauerke told the Journal Sentinel that they were “given guidance as to what material could be shown to ensure investigations were not compromised,” but ultimately the Milwaukee Police Department did not control how the footage was actually used.