“We have heard the cries for help:” Milwaukee property targeted in “bawdy house” nuisance lawsuit

MILWAUKEE -- City officials say they are bringing the first lawsuit of its kind in Milwaukee. They are using the "bawdy house" ordinance as their primary evidence for taking a pair of south side homeowners to court.

Aldermen Bob Donovan, Jose Perez

Alderman Bob Donovan and Alderman Jose Perez held a news conference on Monday, July 10th to discuss the lawsuit against the owners of a home described as a “hub of prostitution” on the city’s near south side. Property records identify the owners as Richard Williams and Jacqueline Kiefer.

The aldermen said Monday they each receive a constant stream of complaints about prostitution and drug activity along Greenfield Avenue. They say it is impossible for neighbors to ignore remnants at every turn. One pastor dumped out a bucket he said contained the needles, condoms, and empty bottles he found within a one-block radius of his church near 23rd and Greenfield.

"The situation is serious. It's affecting businesses on these streets, and we want it to stop," said Perez.

A 21-page complaint states that since 2012, at least five occupants have been convicted for prostitution activity happening on the property. It says earlier this year, police discussed the problems with Williams but the complaints have not stopped. The city is now asking the judge to shut down the house altogether.

"Ideally, the property will be closed and that there are no occupants at the property- the court orders it closed and by no occupants in the property, that includes the owner," said Assistant City Attorney Heather Hough.

"We have heard the cries for help from our constituents -- and we are doing the absolute best job we can to try and address this problem," Donovan said. "But please keep in mind, our authority is limited. We cannot order the police or district attorney to do anything. We can ask, we can urge, and that's about it. And we have on numerous occasions."

Ald. Bob Donovan

The news conference was held in front of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church -- near the home in question. Ald. Donovan wrapped up the news conference by explaining how serious the problem of prostitution has become in that particular neighborhood.

"When I have a pastor, a Lutheran pastor who lives right across the street -- and he contacts me because pimps, pimps are stopping traffic on Greenfield Ave. so the prostitutes can approach cars easier, we've got a serious problem," Donovan said.

Officials say the city attorney's office is preparing more lawsuits against similar properties. The assistant city attorney said those future lawsuits will also deal with homes along Greenfield Ave.

"This is just going to be one of the many that if you're enabling this behavior, we're going to hold you accountable," Ald. Perez said.

Attempts by FOX6 News to reach Williams and Kiefer were unsuccessful Monday.