The Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention held its final informational meeting on Wednesday, on a plan to reduce violence across the city. Around 50 people showed up to find out more about what’s being proposed and how they can help.
Ninety-six pages make up the plan designed to reduce violence in Milwaukee by targeting 10 neighborhoods. The plan is called the Blueprint for Peace and it includes input from not only community leaders, but members of the general public. David Muhammad is program manager for the Office of Violence Prevention, which is part of the city’s health department.
“Specifically, I manage neighborhood based violence prevention efforts. That includes community relations, community engagement, strategies to promote nonviolence and to empower residents in the neighborhood to take a stand and change the norms with regards to violence in neighborhoods,” Muhammad says.
Muhammad told those who gathered for the meeting that the plan takes a comprehensive look at violence and tackles it from a public health approach.
“What we’re talking about is disease intervention. We’re not judging people for the way that they caught the infection, but we want to address the transmission of it. And we do that by looking at what makes people act out violently in neighborhoods. This is not natural behavior. This is not a lack of good parenting or morals so to speak, although that’s a part of it. But even those things are a part of the systemic neglect that many of the neighborhoods that we’re talking about,” Muhammad says.
Muhammad says nothing threatens peace as much as structural inequity and structural violence. He says now that the city’s plan is public, it’s going to be up to community members to take ownership and run with it. Terecy Alvarez says she’s hopeful. She lives in the Polonia neighborhood around 11th Street and Montana on Milwaukee’s south side. Alvarez says her biggest concern is the safety of her community.
“My squad area has the highest crime in (the) Sixth District. But my neighbors know who I am, I know who they are, we text each other, call each other, email each other we know each others kids all the way down to dogs,” Alvarez says.
In other words, Alvarez says residents look out for each other. She says she came to the meeting, hoping to communicate with others to build a stronger and safer community. She believes that goal was accomplished. Rafael Mercado also weighed in on the city’s Blueprint for Peace. He founded an organization called TEAM HAVOC.
“Which is an acronym for Together Everyone Achieves More Helping Another Volunteer or Cause,” Mercado says.
Mercado says he worked with the Office of Violence Prevention over the summer to host block parties in targeted neighborhoods. He says during that time, crime in those neighborhoods decreased. But he adds that while the Blueprint for Peace is a start, he thinks city leaders could do more, such as spend money on programs that would reduce violence. Instead, Mercado says, officials appear content to leave the heavy lifting to residents.
“They don’t commit to (anything) nothing. They’re playing it safe but it’s up to us. We’re the difference, the street, the community. These ones that are on the front line,” Mercado says.
The office of Violence Prevention has yet to set numerical benchmarks for what it wants to achieve and by when. Still program manager David Muhammad says he knows he’ll be monitoring certain numbers.
“We know that youth employment is a reducing strategy to bring down violence in neighborhood. So one thing that we can measure is how many young people in a priority neighborhood receive summer employment or receive employment and job training and match that with the trauma supports that is also a metric,” Muhammad says.
Muhammad says in the coming year, the Office of Violence Prevention plans to fully implement its new strategy.