By Dylan Deprey
There were 103 homicides that occurred during the summer of 2015 in the city of Milwaukee. This was a jump from the 86 that had occurred the previous year. The spike in violence has brought tears and heartbreak to communities throughout Milwaukee.
President Ashanti Hamilton and the Common Council have asked for an all-hands-on-deck approach in the fight against violence through their “multipronged” plan they announced Thursday June 2.
This approach would engage community members, civic leaders and police officers through programs and initiatives.
Hamilton called out to all community members to be engaged in aiding in stopping the violence, but in particular fathers and the churches.
The Common Council has partnered with the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative, Milwaukee Police Department and Department of Neighborhood Services to organize “safewalks” in the community. They have also requested for 500 fathers to volunteer to be “father-figures” in their community.
Dennis Walton is the co-director of the Fatherhood Initiative and made it clear that all fathers are needed for this approach to work.
“We are putting a call out to fathers who are involved in negative activity. We are putting a call out to fathers who need to be more responsible. We are asking them that because they are fathers they have a greater responsibility for their family, their community and their children,” Walton said.
The city has also called for at least 25 churches to volunteer and engage in an adopt-the –block campaign. This would provide churches the opportunity to be vigilant in the community and aid police in stopping crime.
Alderwoman Chantia Lewis is charged with creating the program as well as calling out to the churches.
“Each community that are willing to participate with us has a unique make up,” Lewis said. “Each way we approach that in neighborhoods has to based around what the individual neighborhoods look like and the church knows their neighborhood better than anybody else.”
Lewis noted that there was no definite number of churches that signed up at the moment. Kingdom Faith Fellowship Church was represented by their pastor, Robert Randolph, and was one of the first churches to sign on. They have partnered with Pastor’s United to reach out to other churches in the city of Milwaukee.
The second stage of the approach in engaging civic leaders will be a series of meetings held throughout June and July by the Common Council’s Public Safety Committee. The meetings will offer the opportunities in collaboration with the city in stopping the violence.
Alderman Bob Donovan is the public safety committee chair. Over the next two months he will meet with the Milwaukee Police Department, Milwaukee County District Attorney, Attorney General of Wisconsin, Milwaukee County Sheriff, Milwaukee County Courts, the Department of Corrections and Milwaukee County of Mental Health.
“I hope these meetings prove to be a valuable opportunity to foster collaboration between law enforcement and government agencies while at the same time providing citizens with some insight into the public safety process,” Donovan said.
Ald. Donovan also called for immediate action for the 209 MPD officers eligible for retirement this year as well as another 331 for 2017.
Donovan said that the police were those on the front lines fighting crime and although not every MPD veteran will retire a solid loss in numbers is one less police officer on the street.
Donovan, Hamilton and nine other Council members have sent Mayor Tom Barrett a letter asking for funding in the upcoming 2017 budget proposal.
“The bottom line is you cannot replace an officer who has 25-plus years on the job with a new recruit, but you need to take the steps necessary to fill those positions now,” Donovan said.