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Milwaukee hopes to capitalize off COP House success in Racine

Off 6th and Harrison in downtown Racine, a seemingly normal house sits in the center of the block. 

Inside, a friendly game of foosball dominates the evening activity. 

But this house, is serving a unique purpose. 

It's one of six "COP Houses" in Racine, used by Racine Police to improve community relations. 

    "The neighborhood seems to be very fond of having the COP house here," says Officer Tim Cisler. 

Cisler runs the house, working in that specific neighborhood for his entire week. 

    "It's a sounding board for the issues in the neighborhood," he says. "They can call me and I can more thoroughly address the issues than a patrolman would be able to." 

Cisler is an experienced bike mechanic, so he also fixes neighborhood bikes, and even gives some away for free. 

    "It's like that pride of ownership," he says. "If you like something, fix it instead of just throwing it away or getting a new one."

Now, the wheels are spinning on a similar idea in Milwaukee.

At last week's Fire and Police Commission, State Senator Lena Taylor and Alderman Tony Zielinski brought forward the idea, citing hundreds of vacant homes in crime-ridden neighborhoods. 

    "In the end, community policing is the direction we need to go," says Taylor. "It's a chance for the community to see the police as the valuable resource that they are." 

Taylor says she's working on the state level to generate funding for the project. Racine's COP Houses are made possible through grants, and community sponsors. 

    "Now we need to get that group together, and figure out who's doing what," she says.

The FPC plans on touring the Racine homes in the near future, to see if it's feasible in Milwaukee.

In a statement, a spokesperson for MPD said the department  "continues to work with city leadership and key community stakeholders to plan and develop the COP house model in City of Milwaukee."

    "This is something that I want to take and run with," says Zielinski. "Besides cleaning up a neighborhood and reducing crime, it improved community-neighborhood relations." 

It's unclear which neighborhood the first home would be located in. 

    "We want to target a high-crime neighborhood where we can have the most dramatic impact in terms of turning around that neighborhood," said Zielinski. 

His goal is to have a COP House in place by early 2018. 

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