MPD officers target Lisbon Avenue for prostitution sweep

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Police officers hit the streets Monday, April 2nd in a targeted effort to curb prostitution. Officers went door-to-door, hoping to change a neighborhood on Lisbon Avenue.

Six blocks of Lisbon Avenue in Milwaukee got some extra attention Monday. Police say this is one of the areas that has been historically plagued by prostitution. Police went door-to-door, hoping to identify prostitutes and change behaviors.

Over the past two years, police have changed their tactics from simply arresting prostitutes, to getting them into a self-help program. That program is called "Operation Red Light."

Teig Whaley-Smith is part of the Washington Park Partners, described as a collaboration of residents, organizations and businesses working to make their community better. "We have a lot of youth organizations in the neighborhood and other businesses, and people who have their life savings invested here. We've seen a lot of young women that frankly are being taken advantage of by other people," Whaley-Smith said.

The group has been strategizing with Milwaukee Police District 3 over the last year, to address area prostitution. "We have a very vigilant community that understand the role of Johns and the preying that they are doing in our neighborhood, and we are the first to report all those incidents," Whaley-Smith said.

On days like Monday, police make sure their proactive efforts are very apparent. "Let the neighbors, let the stakeholders know we're engaged in the problem. Let the people who are coming down here to engage in these illegal acts know that the police are monitoring you. We are watching you, and we're not going to accept that this is the place where this is allowed to happen," Milwaukee Police Officer Stephen Witkowski said.

This is the third time police have done a daylight sweep on Lisbon over the past year. They say they're targeting other areas in District 3 as well, and performing random nighttime sweeps.