Milwaukee Police Department receives national award for relationship with Washington Park community

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee police are being honored for their relationship with the Washington Park community.

The United Methodist Children’s Services and the Milwaukee Police Department accepted the national MetLife Foundation Community - Police Partnership Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement for improving safety in the Washington Park neighborhood, east of Milwaukee’s historic Washington Park.

More than 560 police departments and community organizations applied for the recognition, and Milwaukee received a record-setting three of 11 awards. A previous event in October honored award recipients in the Harambee and Riverwest neighborhoods.

“The Washington Park Neighborhood has worked very hard to engage our residents and law enforcement to improve the safety and well-building of our community. This award is a great honor for Washington Park and our partners,” Perry Huyke the Executive Director of United Methodist Children’s Services said.

MetLife Agency Sales Director Derick Klug presented the award, which is accompanied by a $15,000 contribution to United Methodist Children’s Services of Wisconsin, Inc.

“Collaboration between community-based groups and police departments can reduce crime, stimulate housing and economic activity, and improve quality of life in lower-income neighborhoods. The Washington Park partnership is an exemplary model for groups nationwide," Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation said.

In 2010, United Methodist Children’s Services (UMCS) became the convening agency for the Washington Park Partners (WPP), a collaborative of residents, businesses, nonprofits, and city agencies committed to making their neighborhood a thriving community. Major initiatives cited for this award included the development of one of the city’s first Neighborhood Improvement Districts, creation of a Good Neighborhood Agreement for area businesses and in 2012, receipt of a highly competitive federal grant through the Department of Justice Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program, designed to improve public safety through collaboration, community engagement and enforcement.

“Washington Park is taking a comprehensive approach to revitalization, and the local leaders have been very effective at working with law enforcement to create a thriving community. LISC is proud to shine a light on these successes,” Leo Ries, Executive Director of LISC Milwaukee said.

Last year, 1,000 residents participated in block parties, beautification projects and other neighborhood improvement projects. Public safety teams encouraged convenience and liquor stores to make physical improvements and sell healthier food options. Calls for service at these locations plummeted and confirmed incidents dropped more than 50%.

Other strategies targeted vacant and problem properties, with efforts ranging from the creation of a local Landlord Alliance to the rehabilitation of blighted properties by Habitat for Humanity.

Milwaukee police deployed officers in “hot spots” and worked with residents to increase use of the city’s online reporting system, while also conducting workshops with youth to reduce conflict and improve mutual understanding. Crime has dropped more than 30% in the last year alone, with even more marked declines around specific problem locations targeted by the partners.