MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Last week, some of Milwaukee's faith leaders gathered to say "enough is enough" -- after 13-month-old Bill Thao lost his life. A bullet fired into a home near 73rd and Mill took the baby boy's life. No one is in custody. Now, just over one week after his death, we're learning more about an "adopt a block" program faith leaders hope will help to put an end to the violence.
In front of Tabernacle Community Baptist Church last Tuesday night, December 30th faith leaders and elected officials announced a plan to combat the violence — churches will “adopt a block.”
“Each church will be responsible for a block. You will get to know your block — everybody on your block — all the landlords and homeowners. We want the bad landlords and the criminal activity out of the community,” Milwaukee Alderman Russell Stamper said.
Just four days into 2015, we've already seen a number of shootings in Milwaukee this new year.
Outraged by the sheer number of these violent incidents in Milwaukee, Samuel Sims became a block captain in his area.
"We need to change the environment. This is a problem. It's not enough to say 'enough is enough,'" Sims said.
Sims and others say we must take action.
Dr. Andrew Calhoun, a senior pastor at Grace Fellowship Church has partnered with block clubs in the area, and they're serving as a model. Currently, the focus is on two Milwaukee neighborhoods: Grover Heights and Williamsburg Heights.
"You can't do transformation unless you have education. Becoming 501c3 (a tax-exempt, non-profit organization) allows us access to other resources that we can't do by just being a block club. Now, we are able to write for grants and get services and learning done," Calhoun said.
The goal is to use the resources available to get people engaged and help to transform the community.
"Our whole thing is -- you increase communication, you increase awareness," Calhoun said.
"I go door-to-door talking to the neighbors, asking about what type of help they need, what their concerns are. I speak with the younger kids -- seeing what they want to do and what they are involved in. They want new playgrounds and more activities for kids in the neighborhood," Block Watch Captain James Smith said.
Smith helps to facilitate constructive activities.
The faith-based group is persistent when it comes to reaching out to try to curb the criminal element and assist at-risk youth.
"People in the neighborhood and neighbors know these people, so we reach out to them and ask them to talk to these people," Samuel Sims said.
As the work to stop the violence continues -- police are asking that anyone with information in the shootings involving Bill Thao, or five-year-old Laylah Petersen call them at (414) 935-7360. A $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest in the Laylah Petersen case.