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A national organization offers a solution to violence in Milwaukee's downtown entertainment areas

Posted at 6:00 PM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-17 08:13:49-04

MILWAUKEE — A national organization that has already been working with Milwaukee leaders says it has a plan to help make the city safer at night.

The Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) says it starts by creating a new department within the city. At least one business says a solution needs to come quickly.

deer district shooting

Marley Harris is a supervisor at Ian's Pizza's downtown location near Juneau Avenue and Water Street. That is just off the corner from where Milwaukee Police say 17 people were shot on Friday night following the Milwaukee Bucks game. A total of 21 people were shot Friday night downtown. Harris says he feels like this is a repeat of what happened last summer. He says the bars and restaurants are doing all they can, but the city needs to do more.

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Marley Harris, a supervisor at Ian's Pizza in their downtown location at Juneau Avenue and Water Street.

“I think people get a little too wild downtown. People get drunk and it is not a great mix. The city should make more measures to have people feel safe, not necessarily more police presence, but something to keep the max capacity when issues are arising,” said Harris.

A plan from the city could be coming, in part from the RHI. The non-profit has been working with Milwaukee leaders, including the organization Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District #21 since 2015. The president of RHI, Jim Peters, is recommending the City of Milwaukee develop a new city office similar to other major cities.

“New York, Philadelphia, D.C. and San Francisco, they have an Office of Nightlife or Office of Nightlife and Culture,” said Peters.

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Jim Peters (left) of the Responsible Hospitality Institute speaks with TMJ4 News Reporter Rebecca Klopf via Zoom.

Peters said it is not about adding bureaucracy, it is helping find solutions before problems get out of hand.

"The purpose of having a dedicated office and staff is to recognize we no longer live in a nine to five economy,” said Peters. “The city services that work to assure safety during the day, parking management, traffic control, police, inspections, everything that happens during the day is a way to make the public safer. But when you go into the late night generally after 10 p.m., the police can't necessarily be the ones that solve all the problems that happen at night."

Harris wants a quick solution so that by this weekend, people will be back out filling the downtown.

“I hope the city is more prepared for it and we have a plan. I think next weekend will be fine and people will come out. I don't think people should feel scared,” said Harris.

The Milwaukee Downtown BID #21, which is working with RHI, declined to do an on-camera interview, but said something is in the works and solutions will be shared in the near future. The CEO Beth Weirick released this statement:

“We are all shaken over the senseless acts of crime that are occurring not only in our great city, but across the country. Investing in initiatives that create a safe and vibrant city are vital to our economic stability and growth. Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 along with many other partners in both the public and private sectors have been working diligently to identify options and actions that create a safe and vibrant community citywide, both day and night. Through this collective effort, we are confident that this holistic approach will deliver the best solutions for the challenges at hand.”

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