By Meredith Melland
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
After starting as a pilot program in a few city neighborhoods, the Alert Neighbor Program is being expanded citywide in an effort to give residents the tools to reduce crime in their neighborhoods.
The City of Milwaukee program will provide funding for safety improvements such as surveillance cameras, lighting and signage to organized watch groups that are committed to addressing crime and safety issues.
The city’s Office of Community Wellness and Safety has budgeted $300,000 for the program.
Mayor Cavalier Johnson, 6th District Ald. Milele Coggs, 15th District Ald. Russell Stamper II and other city officials stressed the importance of community collaboration during a news conference on Nov. 2 at Waico Apartments, 1800 N. 12th St.
“No one person and no one entity can do this all by themselves,” Johnson said. “Public safety needs everybody to be in the game.”
The Alert Neighbor Program is a collaboration between the Milwaukee Department of Administration, the Office of Community Wellness and Safety, the Milwaukee Police Department, the Mayor’s Office and neighborhood and block watch groups.
The program was created by Coggs and Stamper as a pilot program in 2021, with 15 groups in the first cohort and 25 groups in 2022, according to Patricia Ruiz-Cantu, community outreach manager for the city’s Department of Administration.
Here are some things you should know about the Alert Neighbor Program.
How do I apply?
Applications will open on Friday, Nov. 10 and will be available until Dec. 11.
Neighbors can organize to form a group or existing block watch groups can apply online at milwaukee.gov/anp.
What are the program’s requirements?
The program requires a minimum of eight households to commit to participating in a neighborhood block watch or task force that works with the Milwaukee Police Department and other partners to address safety issues.
If accepted, a block watch group is expected to go on a neighborhood safety walk with city partners before receiving funding and to meet regularly.
A contribution of $20 per resident is required to help fund lighting, cameras and other equipment.
The Alert Neighbor Program will prioritize neighborhoods with high rates of drug-related complaints and crime, active groups and groups that can meet the $20 funding match.
City employees have not specified how many groups they plan to accept in this application cycle.
Ruiz-Cantu said it was difficult to manage 25 groups at once in the last cohort. “My goal is to get 10 and service them right away and then reopen again,” she said.
The program will be ongoing with other opportunities to apply. Groups can reapply if they are not accepted.
How successful has the program been so far?
The program’s direct impact on public safety is not easy to assess.
“It’s difficult to measure crimes that did not occur,” Johnson said at the news conference.
Milwaukee’s serious crimes rate decreased by 14% from 2021 to 2022 and is down 23%, year-to-date, from 2021 to 2023, though some specific crimes have increased, according to MPD’s crime map.
Coggs and Stamper both said they have seen positive outcomes from the program in their districts.
“Anecdotally, we hear from residents that are a part of the Alert Neighbor Program all the time about how this has helped bring their neighborhood together and has pushed out some of the bad activity that we’re having,” Coggs said.
For more information
To learn more about the program and guidelines, visit the Alert Neighbor Program website, contact (414) 286-5626 or email email@example.com.
Meredith Melland is the neighborhoods reporter for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service and a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. Report for America plays no role in editorial decisions in the NNS newsroom.