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Leaders want more county prosecutors working out of Milwaukee police stations

The Community Prosecution Unit has been slowly building back-up after budget constraints hindered its growth.
Posted at 5:23 PM, Jan 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-13 18:23:05-05

MILWAUKEE — When you think of the work of a district attorney’s office, images of courtrooms, criminal cases and convictions typically come to mind.

But there’s a group of prosecutors from the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office who spend more time in specific neighborhoods than at the courthouse. They make up the Community Prosecution Unit, which has been slowly building back up after budget constraints.

In the back of Milwaukee Police District 6 on the city’s south side, is Assistant District Attorney Francesco Mineo’s new office. He is this MPD district’s community prosecutor — something the neighborhood hasn’t had in more than 10 years.

“It gives the DA’s office the ability to really understand what this district and individuals who live here need,” said Mineo. “What their concerns and issues with safety are.”

Mineo goes out with police officers, and workers from the Departments of Corrections and Neighborhood Services, to look deeper into the places and people causing problems in the area. He checks in daily with neighbors, businesses and organizations.

MPD District 6 covers the 27th Street corridor, and Mitchell International Airport, up to 99th and Oklahoma, along with Milwaukee’s Bay View, Garden District and Jackson Park neighborhoods.

City crime numbers show the biggest issues in District 6 are property crimes like break-ins, burglaries and theft.

As citations are given or arrests made, community prosecutors can follow the cases from start to finish.

“It brings that intimate level of knowledge to the court system,” said Ann Lopez, Assistant District Attorney and community prosecutor nearby at MPD District 2. “To let the judge know, this is why this case is important. This is the impact it’s had on the community. This is what neighbors would like to see in terms of punishment – whether it be punitive or completion of an addiction or education program.”

Both Lopez and Mineo were born and raised in the neighborhoods they now serve.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm says having prosecutors invested in the community and on the front lines is key.

“It’s not good when all you can do is just respond after problems and crimes,” said Chisholm. “It’s hard to get on top of anything that way. The Community Prosecution Unit helps us do more proactive work with other stakeholders, and creates the space needed to clear more cases, improve neighborhoods, and hold more people accountable or get them the help they need.”

The biggest challenges in being more proactive are in funding and staffing the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, which has been trying to get a handle on the backlog of cases since the pandemic.

There are currently community prosecutors stationed at MPD District 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6. The city’s hope is to get one stationed at District 7 soon.

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