By Karen Stokes
Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn announced at a press conference July 24, after yet another shooting involving children in the city of Milwaukee, that there is going to be increased police presence in the area of 37th and Hadley Street.
According to Chief Flynn, the night of July 23, two children, a 10 and 11-yearold, were shot inside of a van.
Also riding in the van was their 25-year-old mother and seven children from the ages of two to 11. The driver was a 39-year-old male.
The shooting occurred approximately at 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday.
The driver of the van was suspected of going to the neighborhood to settle a score after just being released from prison.
Bullets hit the side of a nearby house as well as the van, wounding a 10-year old boy and an 11-year-old girl inside the van.
The children, taken to the hospital by their mother, sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
The driver of the van, who was on probation at the time of the shooting, has been taken into custody in violation of probation charges, explained Chief Flynn.
“Any man who is in a vehicle with seven children and decides to get in a gun battle is a coward because he’s putting those children’s lives in danger,” said Mayor Barrett.
According to the police, their mother, Octavia Burton had recently regained custody of her seven children after losing them due to child abuse.
She has now been charged with seven counts of child neglect.
If convicted, Burton could be sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
Chief Flynn stated that the city of Milwaukee’s Department of Neighborhood Services went to the children’ home and the city condemned the home, due to feces, cockroach and bug infestation.
According to police, the seven children are presently in custody of the Bureau of Child Welfare.
Police reported as part of their efforts to beef up police presence in the 37th and Hadley area, they arrested a 23-year-old man wanted in a homicide.
The man had a loaded gun in his vehicle along with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old child passenger.
“Too many people are being shot, and far too many children,” said Chief Flynn.
Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) Lieutenant Stanmeyer stated, through July 27, there have been 254 shooting incidents to date in Milwaukee.
This compares to 251 during the same period in 2013.
According to Chief Flynn, in the city of Milwaukee, 13 children under the age of 14 were shot this year.
“No community should tolerate this, no community should think this is normal,” said Chief Flynn.
A point Chief Flynn made concerning illegal guns in Milwaukee is that 600,000 people live in Milwaukee and, as of July 6, the Police Department has seized 1,340 illegal guns this year. Compared to New York City, the New York police department confiscated 1,350 illegal firearms in a city of nine million people.
“We have a heavily armed criminal population,” Chief Flynn said. “Current laws don’t discourage use of firearms.”
Milwaukee mayor, Tom Barrett, added, “We are dealing with the insanity that felons have access to guns and we are asking Governor Scott Walker and legislators to help.”
Milwaukee Police Chief Flynn wants residents in the 37th and Hadley Street neighborhood to “have a chance to taste the life of the suburbs, a level of peace they deserve as American citizens.”
According to 2010 U.S. Census data, Milwaukee is one of America’s most segregated cities. While African Americans make up approximately 13 percent of the population, they typically live in an area that is 45 percent African American.
Chief Flynn said that, in MPD District 7 (where the shooting occurred), there are over 100,000 residents. According to the 2010 Census over 75 percent of the residents are African American.
“We will do our best to recreate the environment of the suburbs, to see people on their front porch, in their front yard,” said Chief Flynn. “We have community partners in the faith community on the streets.”
Milwaukee’s faith based community is partnering with the police department. Pastor John McVicker, community activist and pastor of Christ the King Church Baptist Church, located on 7750 N. 60th Street, is involved with Churches United Walk Against Violence (Prayer Walk).
Tracey Dent, community activist and candidate for district 16 state assembly has organized the Prayer Walk with 20 area participating churches.
The group of church members from Christian and Muslim congregations walk through various neighborhood in the inner city, talk to the residents, and pray for them.
“We get to know the neighbors to ensure trust,” said Dent.
“We are getting the residents involved. We are starting block watch clubs and training residents to work with police.”
“It is very uplifting,” Dent added. “We are doing this every week, one block at a time.”
“People want change,” said Elder Jacob Gatlin, community liaison, Redemption Fellowship Church, 3500 N. 26th Street.
The church has to reach out and address the needs of the community. If the church is not addressing the needs of the community, it’s just a building.”
Gatlin’s brother was murdered in Milwaukee in 2012. He said he then decided he wanted to bring change to the city.
He is working on efforts to curb violence in the city of Milwaukee.
“People just want to know that somebody cares,” Gatlin says. “Even gang members we meet feel they need prayer. They believe it can help them change.”
“At first, some people don’t want us to pray for them, but the same people come back later and want prayer,” Gatlin added.
Pastor Mario Dickerson, pastor of Victory Temple All Walks of Life Center, 7016 N 76th Street, said, “My congregation is happy to do what they can to help the community, we are supportive of non-violence efforts to promote peace.”
“Good people deserve a safe neighborhood,” Mayor Barrett said.
“There are a lot of good people in low income neighborhoods.”
“That’s why the police are here with a very strong presence,” the Mayor added.
“If it takes four days, they’re going to be there four days, if it takes four weeks, they’re going to be there four weeks, if it takes four months, they’re going to be there four months but we are going to make sure that the good people in this neighborhood can have their children play outside in the summer just as every parent in this city, county and state wants to have happen.”
According to MPD Lieutenant Mark Stanmeyer, dozens of additional officers patrolled the area of 37th and Hadley this past weekend.
While some of the additional resources have now been deployed to other “hot spots” in the city, there is still a presence of officers in the area to reduce fear and maintain order in this neighborhood.