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Is COP House model key to cutting crime? Milwaukee hopes so

Posted at 6:23 PM, Feb 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-01 19:23:21-05

Officers stationed at the Lakeside COP House have been combating crime since 2015 in the Village of Mount Pleasant.

The COP House, paid for almost entirely with grants and donations, was strategically positioned in the Lakeside neighborhood, where officers said they historically saw a disproportionate number of calls like shots fired, prostitution and fights.

"The idea is to place the COP House right in the center of where the problems are," said Mount Pleasant Sgt. Eric Relich.

Three, full time officers work out of the COP House and patrol the surrounding neighborhood.

They offer some programming and activity for kids and neighbors, and also open up the house for community activities like English language and reading comprehension classes.

Barbara Flournoy, who lives across the street, thinks the COP House has made her neighborhood safer.

"I think it does deter a lot of problems," Flournoy said.

Relich said the COP House model can work in any community, not just Mount Pleasant.

That's what city officials in Milwaukee are hoping for.

The city previously approved funding to buy run-down properties in four troubled neighborhoods, also known as Promise Zones, and turn them into COP Houses.

"We have to redefine what the relationship looks like between the community and the police," said Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton.

Hamilton said the houses will be placed in the Harambee/North Division, Washington Park, Greater Old North Milwaukee, and Near South Side neighborhoods.

Hamilton said, once properties are selected, the hope is the communities will work with Milwaukee Police to design the COP Houses and come up with priorities for which resources and services will be available there.

Hamilton noted the model in Milwaukee wouldn't be identical to Mount Pleasant's.

For example, some Milwaukee COP Houses might not have officers maintaining offices there.

"Each neighborhood has its own personality. Its own set of challenges," Hamilton said.

But the basic principle of Milwaukee's plan is the same reason Mount Pleasant opened its COP House: to build trust between officers and the public.

One way to do so is by keeping the same officers working in the same neighborhoods, so they establish a consistent presence there.

"Everyday we try to reach more of our neighbors and build that relationship with them," Relich said. "So that they feel comfortable coming to the house."

Hamilton hopes to see the first Milwaukee COP House open sometime this summer.