MILWAUKEE — Residents and business owners are calling on Milwaukee officials to do more about what they are calling unruly and violent crowds on Water Street on weekend nights.
The push comes after a man was shot and killed along the street two weeks ago and several shootings were reported this past weekend.
Alderman Bob Bauman, whose district includes the area, received several calls and emails from people in the area who are concerned.
"Right now after 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday - Water Street is not safe," said Bauman. "It is sometimes crowds of upward of 4,000 people, most of whom are not patronizing the businesses.”
He says the crowds are disorderly and sometimes violent.
“There’s fighting, there’s open public drinking, there’s open public drug use, there’s multiple motor vehicle violations,” said the alderman.
One resident who has complained to the mayor’s office, the police department, and the alderman says “It’s just chaos… I’ve heard gunshots multiple times.”
The resident, who wanted to remain anonymous in a letter to TMJ4 News and city leaders, says the few measures the city has taken in recent weeks isn’t enough.
“The only thing that I see is them blocking off the street and putting up signs that say please don’t do this, but it’s not deterring anybody," said the resident.
Alderman Bauman has called the city’s efforts “soft” and is calling on the mayor to push for more enforcement by police.
“The authority is clearly the mayor's authority, in terms of directing the vast apparatus of government to act,” said Bauman.
Mayor Tom Barrett’s office released this statement to TMJ4 News:
“Multiple city departments are adapting their strategies to address unruly crowds downtown and elsewhere in Milwaukee. Public works, the health department and the police department have coordinated new approaches aimed at maintaining safety, and those approaches are refined as the situation warrants. We are working cooperatively with residents and businesses affected by late night crowds to find the best solutions to these challenges."
The Milwaukee Police Department says it made several arrests this past weekend, is investigating multiple shootings, and issued eight municipal citations, 62 traffic tickets and towed 42 vehicles.
In a statement to TMJ4 News, a police department spokesperson said:
“This behavior is unacceptable and unfair to our residents, patrons and businesses. MPD continues to actively work with elected officials, area businesses and other city departments to adjust and implement a shared strategic plan to provide a safe downtown entertainment district. MPD appreciates the community members that are assisting in bringing peace to our city. We remain committed to working collaboratively with our community, system partners and business to continue to promote civil and lawful behavior so that everyone can enjoy a safe and fun summer.”
City officials have looked at options to help fix the problem. They include limiting vehicle traffic and closely regulating the food trucks in the area. They also encourage MPD to have additional officers on hand and to give those officers more freedom to close streets in the area.