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'It cannot be tolerated': Downtown alderman Bauman weighs in on how to stop violence after 21 people shot

deer district shooting
Posted at 4:41 PM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-16 19:09:01-04

MILWAUKEE — At least 21 people were wounded by gun violence Friday night in downtown Milwaukee within blocks of the Deer District, where more than 10,000 people were gathering to watch Game 6 of the Bucks/Celtics series.

That includes 17 people shot in one incident near Water Street and Highland Avenue. Five of the people who were injured in that mass shooting were armed and taken into custody, police say.

In total, 11 people ranging in age from 19-39 were arrested and 10 guns were recovered. The shooting victims ranged in age from 15 to 47, and all are expected to survive.

WEEKEND SHOOTINGS

The focus now is how do we stop this from happening again?

A lot of residents and business owners want to hear a plan from city leaders.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson spoke publicly Saturday, announcing an 11 p.m. curfew for those under 21 for the rest of the weekend. But Monday, when TMJ4 called Johnson's office, a spokesperson said he had no availability for an interview, and would not be releasing any type of follow-up statement Monday.

But TMJ4 did talk to downtown Alderman Bob Bauman, who was out of town when the violence occurred Friday.

“Downtown has to be a safe place, period,” Bauman said. “End of discussion. What happened Friday cannot be allowed to happen again. It cannot be tolerated.”

Bauman admits it's gotten to the point where he tells people to avoid parts of his own district on weekend nights in the spring and summer. Specifically, the King Drive and Water Street entertainment corridors.

“That's just an honest reality,” he said.

Bauman says he’s waiting to meet with Milwaukee's mayor and police chief about the violence. Police Chief Jeffrey Norman returned Monday afternoon from a weekend in Washington, D.C. for National Police Week.

Bauman talked about some solutions that could be on the table, like implementing a nighttime curfew for those under 21 all summer.

"But to just throw a curfew out there and have it ignored, or not have it enforced accomplishes nothing, and people will figure that out pretty quick,” he said.

He also mentioned the idea of setting up a secure perimeter around entire downtown areas like Water Street, where you would have to go through metal detectors to enter, much like the Bucks do for the Deer District during watch parties, and Summerfest does for concerts.

“We want to know if it is legal, practical, and effective,” Bauman said. “Do the police have the manpower to staff an operation of that scale? Sure, it would not be a good look. It would look like an armed camp, but better an armed camp than having 17 people shot. Very easily, that could have been 17 people dead.”

Bauman also points to the need for more businesses and organizations to invest in reducing and preventing violence downtown.

“VISIT Milwaukee gets a substantial amount of tax dollars,” Bauman said. “They have resources to assist in this effort. Their constituents, namely the hotel and hospitality industry, are immensely impacted by these activities.”

Peggy Williams-Smith, the President and CEO of VISIT Milwaukee sent us this statement:

"We know that the issue of gun violence is multifaceted and not easily solved. It's an issue that needs the voices and experience of community groups, local business, law enforcement and public officials -- not money alone.

Using the resources available to us, we at VISIT Milwaukee remain committed to doing what we can to help to find solutions. For the last two years my team and I have joined our partners across the city and with Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 to work with the Milwaukee Police Department, the Health Commissioner’s Office and the Department of Public Works to help curb violence. We also supported Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21's work with Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) on a plan that helps to ensure safety in our nighttime economy. In April of this year, in fact, VISIT Milwaukee Senior Director of Strategic and Community Partnerships Meg McKenna attended RHI’s summit in Washington, D.C. to learn best practices from experts and other destinations about how they ensure security in their nighttime economies.

We will continue to support this collaborative work until we as a community can put into place effective long-term solutions.”

Bauman also questioned how Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention is tackling the issue.

“They don’t report to me, so I honestly don't know what they're doing or have done,” he said. “We just allocated a whole bunch of money to them out of the American Rescue Plan Funds. You have to ask them what they're doing, because I frankly don't know what they're doing.”

TMJ4 reached out to the Office of Violence Prevention but have not yet heard back.

Bauman says Milwaukee's downtown is the economic engine of Milwaukee. The recent real estate development and increased tax base downtown supports services in neighborhoods throughout the city. He said you do not want that downtown development to dry up because of crime and violence.

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