Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention details how it will use requested $16.8 million

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The city of Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention is detailing why it needs more people and funding. The request for funding from the American Rescue Plan Act comes after a particularly violent stretch of high-profile crimes in the city.

The city's Board of Health is taking a public health approach to violence prevention, because the number of homicides in 2020 more than doubled from the year before, and domestic violence cases and auto thefts were also up.

The Office of Violence Prevention says the city is on pace for a similar year in 2021, and they need help.

Director Arnitta Holliman says, "We unfortunately have seen historic rises in violence in our community." Holliman says her office needs more support and greater capacity to match increasing violence.

In a report to the city's Board of Health Thursday, Sept. 2, she detailed how the office would use $16.8 million requested to respond to violence exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. 414LIFE is one of those programs, which focuses on priority neighborhoods.

Holliman says, "Over the three years since the program's inception, we have seen decreases in the priority neighborhoods." Holliman cited a study from the Wisconsin Policy Forum that shows Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention is understaffed and underfunded compared to cities with similar levels of violence.

Board of Health member Julia Means is also a nurse who says she's shocked by the grief caused by violence in the community. She says 27 parents and grandparents came to a meeting at her church for people affected by violence. "All of them had more than one death, of a grandchild, child. One woman buried three."

Holliman says the violent trends are not unique to Milwaukee as many cities are seeing increases. She also cited as factors unemployment, a lack of resources and programs, and isolation due to COVID.

Holliman says, "What we want to be unique is that we are funding violence prevention robustly, and that we are invested in saving lives."

Right now, she is not sure when or if the funding could be approved. She says she has not yet heard back from the governor's office.

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