Chief Flynn wants federal foreclosure money to combat crime

MILWAUKEE -- The federal government said last month it would give Wisconsin $141 million as part of the foreclosure crisis settlement. Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn says he hopes a portion of those funds will be used in an effort to combat crime in Milwaukee's central city.

Chief Flynn says he thinks a portion of the federal foreclosure settlement funds should be used to tear down abandoned properties in Milwaukee's central city. "A lot of people don't realize that the foreclosure crisis that resulted in a large number of foreclosed houses has a crime component. It would absolutely be a crime-control strategy," Flynn said.

Flynn says last year, there was an increase in burglaries in Milwaukee, but as the Milwaukee Police Department dove into the numbers to try to understand why, it found that about 12 percent of those burglaries were metal thefts. "People were breaking into houses and stripping them of metal," Flynn said.

Besides abandoned homes being stripped of their copper, Flynn stresses a variety of negative impacts they have on the community. From a statistical point of view, Flynn says these abandoned homes artificially inflate crimes rates since break-ins on abandoned homes are still reported as burglaries, and in the long haul, the vacant homes often become crime scenes themselves. "They become drug hangouts. They become attractive to nuisances for arson or for inappropriate behavior, and people hanging out in them and gangs making use of them," Flynn said.

Abandoned homes also lower the value of all the houses around them, and create an environment that makes it look like no one cares. "Environments that look like no one cares attract more crime," Flynn said.

With the help of the Department of Neighborhood Services, at least 500 abandoned properties have been identified that should be targeted for demolition. "If we could make a dent in 500 houses in neighborhoods that already have problems, we would have a positive impact on the quality of life in those neighborhoods. There is no question about it," Flynn said.

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