Milwaukee safety proposal: Retractable fencing considered

There is a proposal to put retractable fencing to block traffic on Water Street in downtown Milwaukee during big events.

Gov. Tony Evers announced the money on Monday, May 23. Tuesday, no one from the city could tell FOX6 News what the fences will look like – or even how they would work.

With a curfew in place and temporary blockages on almost every corner, Water Street has a different feel after a string of shootings earlier this month. 

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"What happened at the Bucks game – that’s unacceptable," said Kamani Graham, who lives downtown.

Three people died and 25 were hurt in shootings on Friday, May 13. One of them was a shootout hurting 17 people near Water and Juneau. 

Kamani Graham

Gov. Evers on Monday announced $2.2 million in federal pandemic relief funds for Milwaukee safety enhancements. Some of that money would cover police summer overtime.

One of the specifics noted in a news release indicates "downtown security fencing that can be remotely raised and lowered." The goal is to create "pedestrian only" zones during weekends or major events.

"What that does is provide an opportunity for us to have police officers who are not doing traffic control but for them to be able to go out and do things that sworn officers need to do," said Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson.

FOX6 News asked the mayor how the fences would work and where they would be installed.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson

"We don’t have that information just yet – a natural point of conversation would be the perimeter I outlined in the curfew after the events that happened earlier this month, though," Johnson said.

It could look something like what is seen outside Fiserv Forum – metal pillars that rise out of the pavement.

Milwaukee Alderman Bob Bauman, whose district covers downtown, told FOX6 News by telephone on Tuesday that plans are still up in the air. He said the earliest the fencing could go in is next year. 

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The Milwaukee Police Department explained in a statement (below) the funding for the downtown entertainment district is still in the early planning stages. 

The Milwaukee Police Department appreciates Governor Evers’ investment to combat crime in our city. As it relates to the downtown area, MPD has been actively working with elected officials, area businesses and other city departments to develop and implement a shared strategic plan to provide a safe downtown entertainment district. The implementation of the funding in the downtown entertainment district is in beginning stages of the planning process. As always, MPD appreciates the community members that are assisting in bringing peace to our city. We remain committed to working collaboratively with our community, system partners and business to continue to promote civil and lawful behavior so that everyone can enjoy our great city.