Tip Line Aims To Curb Summer Gun Violence In Milwaukee

Some Community Activists Worry Residents Will Be Reluctant To Make Reports

Greg Matthews (CC-BY-ND)

The Milwaukee Police Department is teaming up with a federal agency to promote a new gun crime tip line. The goal is to prevent a spike in gun violence that often occurs in the summer.

Electronic billboards in the city will advertise a toll free number people can call to anonymously report felons and drug dealers who own guns. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms will answer the phones and pass on the tips to Milwaukee police.

A billboard image from the new campaign. MPD/ATF

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Joyce Ellwanger of the church-based group MICAH said she worries the tip lines won’t get used because many people are scared of retaliation.

“You know the perpetrators,” said Ellwanger. “You live with them every day and you know that they watch. People are really quite frightened.”

But ATF spokesman Joel Lee said that fear is unfounded.

“We have lots of methods to protect victims and witnesses especially witnesses that help us in campaigns such as this,” Lee said.

The tip line number is 1-800-ATF-GUNS.

Clear Channel Outdoor is providing the billboards for free.

Lee said a similar campaign in New Orleans in the 1990’s was successful in curbing gun violence. Rewards are available to tipsters whose information leads to a conviction.

Still, Ellwanger of the MICAH group said before people will have the courage to turn in their neighbors, it’s important to build a positive relationship between police officers and the communities that are suffering the gun violence. Her group plans to hold some ice cream socials this summer in one such neighborhood. Police officers will be serving the ice cream.