MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee police officers and various nonprofit organization volunteers organized a community cleanup Wednesday near 26 and Burleigh Streets in the Amani neighborhood. Many residents stepped up to help as well.

The area has long been plagued by poverty and crime, but it’s been making changes with more collaborations like this. City leaders and public safety officials said connecting regularly with more residents is key to reducing crime.

(Spectrum News 1/Cody Taylor)

This effort was part of the Milwaukee Police Department’s Operation Summer Guardian program, which combats violence and boosts public safety.

(Spectrum News 1/Cody Taylor)

“They see us out here doing this type of stuff, and it kind of makes us more approachable. They see us as more of a person instead of a police officer,” said Michael Terrell.

Terrel, a Milwaukee police officer, has been with MPD for more than 20 years. He works out of District Five in the Amani neighborhood.

“We are here to help solve the issues that the citizens are having, whether it be an abandoned property, or people loitering, that’s what we are here for,” he said.

Marcy Patterson, the community relations and engagement manager for MPD, also said interacting directly with community members is key to cultivating relationships.

“We all know that the number one goal for us is to build trust,” said Patterson. “We can’t arrest our way out of any of this.”

(Spectrum News 1/Cody Taylor)

Amanda Clark, the housing coordinator for the Dominican Center, joined the cleanup. The Dominican Center has spent more than 20 years working to revitalize the Amani neighborhood and support people who live there. 

“Our minds are cluttered enough in our homes, so to come outside and be able to have a clean space, I think we all deserve that,” she said. “We are picking up a lot of drug paraphernalia and empty alcohol bottles. Kids don't deserve to come outside and see this.”