“Safe Zone Initiative” expands into Milwaukee’s Franklin Heights neighborhood

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MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee's "Safe Zone Initiative" is expanding into the city's Franklin Heights neighborhood, during what has already been a deadly summer on the city's north side.

The program is unique in that it takes people who live in dangerous neighborhoods -- and gives them the tools to stop the cycle of gun violence on their own block.

Desmond Tatum

Desmond Tatum

Desmond Tatum is a so-called "HOOD Ambassador."

"It's too many innocent lives getting killed over nothing. People who I call my big brothers, who I call my little brothers," Tatum said.

The "Safe Zone Initiative" is expanding into the Franklin Heights neighborhood after data from Milwaukee's Homicide Review Commission showed a 150 percent increase in homicides in 2015.

Garden Homes neighborhood in Milwaukee

Garden Homes neighborhood in Milwaukee

Garden Homes and Franklin Heights neighborhoods in Milwaukee

Garden Homes and Franklin Heights neighborhoods in Milwaukee

The program first took off in the Garden Homes neighborhood last summer. Organizers say it was a success -- and they hope it will now help reduce violence in Franklin Heights.

The Franklin Heights and Garden Homes neighborhoods are on either side of Capitol Drive -- between 35th Street and Teutonia.

CLICK HERE to view a map of Milwaukee neighborhoods

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The project founders lead program staff like Tatum, known as NeighborHOOD (Helping Others Obtain Direction) Ambassadors -- recruited directly from the neighborhood.

Common Council Pres. Ashanti Hamilton talks about Safe Zone Initiative

Common Council Pres. Ashanti Hamilton talks about Safe Zone Initiative

After extensive training, they are deployed throughout the neighborhood to build relationships, identify needs and support resident engagement. Their primary focus is on reducing non-fatal shootings and homicides by identifying and interrupting the cycle of conflict-driven violence.

The ambassadors are trained in violence intervention, conflict resolution and outreach -- and will work throughout the targeted areas for the remainder of the summer.

"It really shouldn`t be a struggle or a fight to empower the people living in the community to combat violence that happens in their community," Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton said.

Data pix.
Data pix.

There are 13 HOOD ambassadors who will spend the remainder of the summer working in both the Franklin Heights and Garden Homes neighborhoods.

Safe Zone Initiative

Safe Zone Initiative

"Them knowing me, they'll probably sit down and talk to me before they sit down and talk to the police," Tatum said.

In his month on the job so far, Tatum said he used his new skills to diffuse a potentially volatile situation between two acquaintances.

"We actually came to an agreement. You guys can just talk about the situation instead of fighting and shooting -- instead of someone innocent getting killed," Tatum said.

Safe Zone Initiative

City officials say this Safe Zone Initiative is being funded through a partnership with the Milwaukee Health Department’s Office of Violence Prevention and Uniting Garden Homes Inc.

The Common Council approved $75,000 in funding to expand Safe Zones this summer and the County Board has voted to contribute an additional $37,500 to support efforts in Franklin Heights.


  • Klaatu

    It would be a revelation if this actually worked but all in all I think it’s a joke. Do they really think a sign will stop the violence? Put the offenders in jail – then the neighborhood will be safe.

  • Mark Robles

    Typical liberal mental illness believing that a stupid sign is going to stop the criminals from shooting anyone!! Chicago, France and San Bernadino prove gun control DOES NOT WORK!! It’s real simple what is so hard to understand?

  • Opinion8d

    Not sure how many people caught a key paragraph: ‘According to the statement, this initiative is the vision of Khalil Coleman, a community educator, and Garden Homes neighborhood organizer, Shawn Moore. They founded the program in 2015 with the support of President Hamilton.’ ** So, Shawn Moore, the organizer of the Justice for Jay marchers in Tosa last week, is basically getting paid by the city (Over $100K funding for Safe Zones)!!! Talk about corruption! If anyone wants to review the downfall of Detroit, just start looking at Milwaukee.

    • Michael Neils

      Yup saw that too. Is that both sides of the coin or a two headed coin? I also wonder if Shawn was related to Gwen? and if Mr. Hamilton is related to the Hamiltons of red arrow park protests? politics made odd bedfellows and all that.

  • Nate Jr.

    SO is the city of Milwaukee paying Moore to lead the illegal protests in Wauwatosa??? Yeah that sounds right mayor mccheese coward flynn and ass anteee Hamilton 3 losers running the city into the ground

  • walloffthenorthside

    Hood Ambassador. Put that one on the resume. You want to make safe zones. Wall off the entire thug infested areas and don’t let them leave. Then the rest of the city and surrounding areas will be safe zones. Stop running city buses from the hood to the suburbs to keep as much of the trash out as possible.

  • Reasonless

    When this fails, perhaps they can still keep those shirts to use as security officers on the trolley.
    Plus they can help keep the trolley from looking like the rest of Milwaukee by scraping gum off of the seats and floor and cleaning the windows from that greasy crap that you see on all of the County Bus windows.
    And with their new found skills in negotiation, they can shake down the better off trolley riders for a higher admission.

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