Milwaukee Common Council approves 'COP House' proposal

Milwaukee's Common Council on Tuesday voted to approve the COP House Initiative. 

The COP - or Community Oriented Policing - House proposal has the backing of the Milwaukee Police Department. 

It was authored by south side Ald. Tony Zielinski. 

Under the plan, Milwaukee will convert vacant, city-owned homes into houses that police officers can use to maintain a presence in troubled neighborhoods. 

Zielinski said each COP House would cost between $50,000 and $75,000 to renovate. 

Milwaukee hopes to use federal community development block grant funding to pay for the repairs. 

Zielinski said, once the homes are repaired, police can move in and use them as a base to police neighborhoods and build trust with residents. 

"This is something that will not only combat crime, but will also improve police-community relations," Zielinski said. 

The COP Houses will also be equipped with computers and staffed with educational partners who will offer a safe and accessible location for tutoring and educational advancement, Zielinski said.

"People from the neighborhood can go in and use the computers free of charge," Zielinski said. "A lot of COP Houses also have playground equipment so kids can come there to play." 

Zielinski said the COP House model has reduced crime by up to 70 percent in other cities using the program. 

Locations for COP houses in Milwaukee will be chosen using data on crime, calls for service and nuisance calls. 

"We want to pick the highest-crime neighborhoods," Zielinski said. 

Zielinski said he expects COP houses to be staffed with officers roughly eight to 10 hours each day. He said the hours will be flexible so that officers can be in the neighborhood during community events like evening block parties. 

With the Common Council signing off on the proposal, the first COP House location is expected to open next year. 

Once a COP House is deemed successful, Zielinski said it will be sold so police can move into a different neighborhood. 

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