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Milwaukee Safe Zone Ambassadors Help Clean Up Neighborhood, Forge Connections

Marti Mikkelson
Ald. Ashanti Hamilton with Safe Zone ambassadors

Several dozen people have banded together this summer to help clean up neighborhoods on Milwaukee’s north side. The goal is to eventually reduce crime.

About 25 people are gathered in Garden Homes Square, a huge park on Milwaukee’s north side. They’re ambassadors with the Safe Zone initiative – a city program federal money helps fund.

One member is Antonio Williams, a neighborhood resident. He says one of the group’s first activities will be to clean up the park. Williams says the ambassadors also are urging other residents to pitch in.

“We go door to door and we speak with residents and they talk about the safety of the park. How about the cleanliness of the park? You are the company you keep. If this place looks nasty, it’s going to bring nasty company. If we clean up these areas, maybe we can stop some of the monkey-foolishness that goes on around it,” Williams says.

Fellow ambassador Alliyha Bowman says the park has become a hub of illegal activity and many people who live in the area are fed up.

“They want their kids to be able to come to the park and play. Nobody wants to constantly run back and forth to the park, wondering has my child been shot, has anything happened to my child at the park, what is my child seeing at the park, what is my child learning at the park,” Bowman says.

Bowman and the other Safe Zone ambassadors went through several days of training in June.  The group's leader, Khalil Coleman, helped provide it. He says the training included strategies to recognize and reduce a number of crimes, including human trafficking.

“How do you deal with something like that, how do you report something like that, how do you notice the signs of someone being in human trafficking,” Coleman says.

Anita Pyant has lived in the area for more than 40 years. She thinks the ambassadors can make a wealth of difference, forging connections among neighbors.

“We have a lot of elderly who live alone in this area, and we have a lot of young people with no place to go, no jobs, they’re homeless, their parents may be incarcerated. We have an elderly person over here who needs the energy of a young person, we have a young person who could use the wisdom of an elderly person. We can match people together and become self-sufficient again,” Pyant says.

Pyant says she hopes the city can get more people involved in the program. Ald. Ashanti Hamilton helped secure the federal grant to begin the initiative in the Garden Homes neighborhood. He says he’s pleased with the results so far.

“They’ve been out here for about a week already and the community response to them I’ve been impressed with,” Hamilton says.

Hamilton says he’s going to apply for additional grants, in the hope of establishing safe zones in several other troubled areas.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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