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Politics & Government

Milwaukee Leaders Unveil More Efforts to Curb Prostitution on South Side

Marti Mikkelson
Ald. Bob Donovan rolls out more efforts to crack down on prostitution

City leaders continue to ramp up efforts to crack down on prostitution on Milwaukee’s south side. Earlier this summer, a community organization announced it would open a shelter for victims of human trafficking, who are forced into prostitution. Then, neighbors chipped in to hire a private security firm to gather intelligence on the south side – and go after the customers, or johns. A couple of aldermen announced Wednesday that the city is also focusing on another tactic.

A handful of neighbors gathered around Ald. Bob Donovan, as he stood at the corner of 32nd and W. Greenfield Avenue yesterday. Donovan said he has good news in the ongoing battle against prostitution and drug dealing on Milwaukee's south side. He pointed to a two-story house behind him, and said the city is taking action against it.

“We’re here to officially announce that this property across the street, the city of Milwaukee believes is a public nuisance and is a haven, and has been a haven for prostitution and drug dealing," he explained.

Donovan said because of the alleged criminal activity, the city is able to exercise the "bawdy house" law. It allows the city to file a lawsuit against the property owner.

He said he hopes the move helps curb criminal activity in the area:  “If successful, the suit will identify and assign a receiver of this property and begin the appropriate management of 3200 W. Greenfield in the hope of restoring some order and stability and quality of life back to this particular neighborhood.”

Another person involved in the crackdown is Assistant City Attorney Heather Hough. She said she thinks the city has a strong case, and encouraged neighbors to be vigilant, reporting to police any criminal activity they see.

"To the citizens of this community who bring forward complaints, who may be frustrated with the time it takes, just know it’s because we want to build a solid case around your complaints,” Hough said.

One person grateful for the city’s efforts is Betty Grinker. She’s been living on the busy street for 50 years, and said she’s seen a dramatic increase in drug trafficking and prostitution in the past few months.

Grinker said she’s witnessed some disturbing activity: “I can’t even put it into words. I see the girls standing up sleeping, they’re in the corners, it’s so bad."

She said if the lawsuit succeeds, she’ll be happy to bid farewell to the drug house.

“It’s a start, these landlords have absolutely no shame in what they are renting to. They know what’s going on, but it is money in their pockets. They don’t give a darn about the people around here,” Grinker said.

Grinker was among a group of citizens who chipped in earlier this summer to hire private investigators to come into another part of the neighborhood, 23rd and Greenfield, to gather information on the customers, or johns. Once identified, the johns receive letters in the mail, informing them that prostitution is a crime for which they could be prosecuted. Ald. Bob Donovan said since the effort began, he’s seen less prostitution in the area.

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