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Milwaukee Residents Look to Impact Quality of Life in Their Neighborhoods


A six-year-old boy was shot and killed in a hail of gunfire on the north side over the weekend.  Earlier in the week, four people, including two children, were shot at 39th and Burleigh, near the Sherman Park neighborhood. For some community members, that shooting was the last straw—so they called an emergency meeting to look for solutions.

What’s the biggest concern in your community? Depending upon where you live, it varies, but for people in some of Milwaukee’s most impoverished communities, its not only the violence but what could happen if they report a crime. Camille Mays works for the Sherman Park Neighborhood Association. She says many people fear retribution if police get involved.

“I know that a lot of residents have concerns about being anonymous a lot of times. So we need to work on ways that we can work with residents to report things that are going on anonymously a little better because when they’re calling 911, sometimes the police are still sometime coming to their doors,” Mays says.

Mayes also pleaded for more people to come out and help police their neighborhoods, especially in areas where there are abandoned homes as they tend to draw more crime.

“If we could get presence on these blocks, even 39th and Center. It’s horrible all the way across the board. Its vacant lots on those blocks. It we could activate those spaces, patrol more in numbers, put more of us together, it’s safety in numbers.

Mays says that while she wouldn’t feel comfortable patrolling by herself…

“But if they see all of us, all the time, more on a frequent basis all the time. We have the power to change this,” Mays says.

Mays says it’s time for people to step up and help create the community they want to live in. Vaun Mayes -- no relation -- called the emergency meeting. He’s a community activist and founder of the organization “We All We Got.” He says his greatest hope is that the people out in the community actually making an impact begin to get the recognition – and encouragement -- they deserve. 

“Develop the relationships to put together viable programming  and get people who have the compassion for the work who right now are not getting paid versus the people who don’t have the compassion (passion) for the work, but have all the money. We need to switch that around because if we are really trying to combat poverty and we’re really trying to combat crime, we need people who will actually put the manpower and the man hours out there,” Mayes says.

Around 15 people attended the meeting, and many of them not from the neighborhood. Still, people like Kevan Penvose want to help. He’s pastor of Unity Lutheran Church on the south side and he was one of a handful of nonblack people at the meeting. Penvose explained why he wanted to be there.

“It’s my city and we’re one community,” Penvose says.

Dennis: “What’s your biggest concern about what you see these days?”

“Of course the violence catches our attention, but beyond the violence, my biggest concern is apathy by people who just see the violence from a distance. Maybe it’s on the evening news or maybe it’s listening to the radio and think that it’s not my problem. That it doesn’t involve me,” Penvose says.

As for his greatest hope, Penvose says that what unites us in our humanity is stronger than what divides us.