MILWAUKEE — Alderman Ashanti Hamilton has been letting residents around Villard Avenue know that their neighborhood has a new set of eyes.
"These cameras can zoom down both intersections. So they can see both ways at the cross. They can also read license plates," said Hamilton, standing at the corner of 35th and Villard.
That feature — reading plates — of the four new cameras helped police in their search for Major Harris, a three-year-old who was found dead not far from 35th and Rohr.
According to police, the cameras identified the license plate of the SUV of the missing boy's mother, Mallery Muezenberger. Muezenberger was found shot to death in a Milwaukee home on Oct. 14. Her car was later picked up by the new cameras near Sherman and Villard, say police, leading them to focus their search for Harris in that area, where his body was eventually discovered.
While police were unable to find the little boy alive, their hope is to prevent further crime with the new cameras, which give police a real-time look at Villard and streets intersecting it from Sherman to Teutonia.
"By and large the neighbors were advocating for these, and in some cases, in the town hall we had yesterday, they were demanding an expansion," said Hamilton.
Villard Avenue Business Improvement District partnered with Alderman Hamilton and police to purchase and install the cameras at a cost of roughly $350,000.
The cameras link directly to police, so they can monitor crime in real-time, including, among other crimes, reckless driving and vehicle theft.
"From Villard to Fairmont, it's like a Nascar track. It's like nonstop," said Damien Woods, who lives above the Tomato Patch bar on 35th.
The stretch of Villard now monitored falls in Police District Four, which has seen a spike, year-to-date compared to 2020, in both theft-larceny and vehicle theft.
Residents, like Woods, hope the new cameras augment private security systems at local businesses, to deter would-be criminals in the area.
The cameras are part of a pilot program that's been operating for a month. The Villard Avenue Business District will soon be posting signs around the neighborhood to promote what they're calling 'Operation Green Light.'