Water Street violence worries for business owners, leaders

A Milwaukee alderman is calling for the city to ratchet up enforcement in the downtown entertainment districts following continued issues surrounding massive crowds, reckless driving, fighting and two weekend shootings.

Milwaukee police say a 27-year-old woman from Milwaukee accidentally shot herself during a large fight near Water and Juneau. Bartenders told FOX6 News the disturbances and violence are curtailing customers from coming in and getting cocktails, which means less cash they can't afford to lose.

As bars on Water Street opened for the evening Monday, some owners questioned whether they'd have enough staff to keep them open.

The owner of Red Rock Saloon and McGillicuddy's wrote to Alderman Bob Bauman Saturday, in part: "The lawlessness that has taken over our street is nothing short of shocking. The repercussions to my business have been devastating. I am genuinely concerned for the safety and lives of everyone on Water Street at nighttime."

"And we’re sitting on a powderkeg that could undo years and years of investment and redevelopment and positive change," said Bauman.

Water Street

Bauman said the city needs to step up enforcement, like putting in more parking restrictions in the area as a possible solution, and that moving towards a zero-tolerance strategy of ordinance enforcement could lead to even more confrontation.

Milwaukee police say scores of people have engaged in disorderly behavior, including public drinking, loitering, reckless driving and fighting.

Police are investigating two shootings and several batteries in the area from over the weekend and made multiple arrests, noting eight municipal citations, 62 traffic tickets and 42 towed vehicles.

Earlier in June, a 31-year-old man was shot and killed.

Water Street

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Milwaukee police issued this statement:

"Recently, numerous individuals engaged in disorderly and unruly behavior as it relates to the downtown entertainment district. Individuals were engaged in public drinking, loitering, cruising, reckless driving and fighting. This past weekend, MPD investigated two shootings and several batteries in the vicinity, and made multiple arrests. MPD also issued 8 municipal citations and 62 traffic citations, and towed 42 vehicles.

"This behavior is unacceptable and unfair to our residents, patrons and businesses. MPD continues to actively work with elected officials, area businesses and other city departments to adjust and implement a shared strategic plan to provide a safe downtown entertainment district.  

"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 a safe and fun summer."

Alderman Bob Bauman

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's office said: "Public works, the health department and the police department have coordinated new approaches aimed at maintaining safety, and those approaches are refined as the situation warrants."

"It’s an extremely explosive situation. Very volatile," said Bauman, adding that he's hoping that it doesn't get worse.

FOX6 News spoke with the owner of Red Rock Saloon and McGillicuddy's  Monday afternoon. He said he and other business owners have planned to meet in the next day or so to put their heads together to address the situation that he said he's appalled to witness.