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Recent influx of violence downtown causes businesses to implement more safety measures

"We always have a door person limiting how many people are coming into our store."
Posted at 5:30 PM, Jul 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-25 18:30:30-04

MILWAUKEE — The recent influx of violence on or near Water street in downtown Milwaukee has some businesses worried about staff and guests.

In the past week there were two shootings within two days of each other when thousands of people were around. One the night of the Bucks win, the other after the parade.

According to Milwaukee Police Department there have been 5 non-fatal shootings and 1 deadly shooting from the beginning of the year to July 22 downtown. During the same time last year there was only 1 non-fatal shooting.

But, as crowds continue to grow and celebrate on water street the concern is increasing among businesses in the area.

"It's just sad honestly especially with the Bucks winning the championship you would think it would bring the city together," said Hailey Wittliff, Duke's on Water Bartender.

With crowds exceeding thousands some nights the violence is causing some to close their doors early even with business ramping up.

Ian's Pizza Milwaukee Marketing Manager Andy Johnson said following Thursdays shooting near his store, his staff doesn't feel safe.

"Our staff want to work; they want to make money but at the same time they don't need to be the subject of violence," Johnson said.

Now, businesses are taking matters into their own hands.

"Normally, we would be open till 3am now were closing at midnight." Johnson said. "We're definitely losing sales because those were busy hours."

On top of closing early, there is a capacity limit enforced.

"We always have a door person limiting how many people are coming into our store." Johnson said. "It's a 25 person limit."

Just in the past month, bars like Duke's on Water have implemented added safety measures so before you can walk in, you'll have to be searched with a medal detector wand.

"If everyone's getting wanded you can be assured that in the bar nobody has a weapon or a knife," Wittliff said.

However, she believes the problem isn't inside the bars but rather those on the streets walking from bar to bar.

Since June, the Department of Public works have temporary no parking zones and mapped geo-fencing on scooters, so they don't work in those areas.

The perimeter was created at the direction of the mayor and MPD after working with the business community, among others.

In a statement from DPW, it states that the safety precautions are ongoing throughout the summer's weekend evening to early morning hours. The restrictions could also change depending on events.

Both Wittliff and Johnson are hopeful the violence will stop so they can continue to serve their guests.

View the list of the temporary no parking locations by clicking here.

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