by Thomas E. Mitchell, Jr.
Second District Ald. Joe Davis, Sr. will ask a Common Council committee Monday to allocate $200,000 from the Community Development Block Grant contingency fund for police patrols and investigations of abandoned homes.
Davis will ask the Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee to allocate the funds for MPD bike and foot patrols in neighborhoods where vacant, foreclosed and abandoned homes are located.
Often the homes become havens for squatting, vandalism and drug crimes.
Davis made the announcement of the police funding option during a Tuesday news conference at the site of a garage fire allegedly set by vandals in the 4000 block of 63rd Street. The fire caused approximately $15,000 in damages and is still under investigation.
“Though the Department of Neighborhood Services has done well to work on plans to record vacant properties—and they do monitor violations to the code—those inspectors are unarmed, unsworn workers,” said Davis during the news conference
“Milwaukee Police Department officers investigating abandoned properties have the power to fully secure a property and eliminate much of the criminal activity within them,” Davis said.
The alderman was joined by, Ald. Bob Donovan, Milwaukee Police Department bike patrol officers and residents who live in the vicinity of the vandalized garage.
One of the residents was George Anderson who lives next door to the vacated garage that burned down.
Anderson described what happened the day of the fire and the damage it caused to his property. Anderson and the alderman also pointed to a damaged car that was parked across the alley from the blaze.
“Words can’t describe what happened when I pulled up to my house and saw nothing but blue smoke,” Anderson said, adding an electrical transformer was blowing sparks and there were dangling electrical wires.
“We all want to live in safe neighborhoods and not have to worry about vandals and strangers walking through our yards, Anderson said. He said he hopes the committee and mayor supports the initiative.
“It will be great for all communities and neighborhoods.”
Praising Ald. Davis for his “outside the box thinking,” Ald. Donovan said his colleague’s plan “kills three birds with one stone. It provides for the checking of properties that are havens for drugs, gangs and other problems.
“By checking properties, police officers will have a greater presence in neighborhoods,” Anderson continued. “They will talk to residents about the neighborhood.”
Anderson said the foot and bike patrols will be welcomed by businesses in the area that have long called for a greater police presence.
The Southside alderman emphasized federal dollars will be used to pay for the patrols.
“No property tax dollars are being used,” said Anderson, who noted the patrols are a good fit with other public safety initiatives the Council plans to unveil soon.