Crime in one South Side neighborhood is down after an increase in foot patrols from Milwaukee Police Officers.
The Clarke Square neighborhood went through a major rehabilitation in 2018. Construction work on Greenfield Avenue pushed a lot of the street-level crime, prostitution, drug-dealing and shootings out of the area. However, Milwaukee Police wanted to make sure it stayed that way.
"Since October, District 2 started a beat initiative where they assign a couple of officers to every neighborhood in District 2," Officer Matthew Diener said. "We were assigned Clarke Square which is roughly Mitchell Park to Greenfield and Cesar Chavez to the east, Layton to the west."
Diener and his partner Officer Michael Walker do a number of things on their eight-hour patrols. They check in on businesses to see if they've had any troubles. They go to different vacant or abandoned homes in the area to make sure no drug use, prostitution or squatting is going on. They also check in with local residents to get a lay of the land.
All of this has translated into big decreases in crime. Compared to 2017, robbery calls in Clarke Square are down 11 percent. However, they've seen dramatic decreases in other areas.
Drug dealing calls are down 44 percent.
Shooting calls are down 41 percent.
And perhaps the most dramatic of them all, soliciting calls are down 61 percent.
Some of this can be attributed to construction on Greenfield Avenue during 2018. Police say the criminal activity was pushed away from the thoroughfare because of the roadwork. However, the patrols are helping keep it that way.
"We've been told numerous times by citizens and other stakeholders in the area, they see the difference we're making," Diener said. "That's a big accomplishment to us when we hear that."
"Certainly, the construction along Greenfield reduced the amount of prostitution along that stretch," Alderman Bob Donovan said. "Much of it moved further east but also, the foot patrol officers in that area do make a difference."
Donovan has been a long supporter of increased foot patrols across the city. He says it's largely a staffing issue since there will still be calls for service they need to attend to.
But he thinks it will be worth it in the long run.
"I support wholeheartedly the foot patrol officers, bicycle officers, connecting with the people and the people connecting with them," Donovan said. "It makes a world of difference."
It's great for business as well. There are a number of markets and other retail spaces along Greenfield Avenue that benefit from the increased patrols.
"Drugs, prostitution, some other things," Nasar Asad, owner of Richard's Food Market said. "It does good when you have police. It's going to help us."
"I really enjoy the feedback we get," Officer Diener said. "When people tell us, the workers and the residents that work here, that they see a difference, we know that difference is primarily from our work we're doing out here in Clarke Square."