Program aims to curb crime in Green Bay before it even starts | WTAQ News Talk | 97.5 FM · 1360 AM

GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ-WLUK) – The City of Green Bay is rolling out its Community Safety Plan, unveiling a program that will send citizens out into the streets to take the pulse of the community in an effort to stop violence.

The city administration speaks of a holistic approach to crime prevention.

“There is no one solution to a problem as complex as community violence. And when Green Bay, like the rest of the country, saw an increase in gun violence a few years ago, we knew we would need multiple strategies to move in the right direction,” said Police Chief Chris Davis.

Late last year, the Office of Violence Prevention was created in Green Bay. The OVP team works to create a safe, violence-free community by trying to find the root causes of problems, using “violence interrupters.”

Jerry “Street” Overstreet, the director of the OVP, said: “They will be an integral part of what we are trying to do because they will be in the community and having these conversations to hopefully prevent the situation from escalating and, more importantly, prevent retaliation.”

As trusted community members with life experience, the VI's job is to gauge the mood in the community. They will have the difficult conversations with victims and perpetrators of crime and try to break the cycle of violence.

“To be able to build far-reaching relationships and bring people together who might not otherwise talk to each other,” Overstreet said.

Although the VIs work together with the police, in cases of problems their job is to provide information and mediation, not to introduce coercive measures.

“We're not going to ask OVP to provide us with intelligence or anything like that because they really have to be trusted partners in the community,” Police Chief Davis said.

Overstreet added: “We don't give information to the police. I mean, if there's a 911 call, obviously we have to do what's right for the community. If you see something, say something. But we're not running around here thinking about whether we can rat people out.”

Community members hope this approach works and are confident the OVP team will have an impact on the younger generation – and make communities safer.

“They need someone who speaks their language and is closer to them, to know what they are going through or have gone through and what direction they can go,” said Tanya Westmoreland of the Seymour Park Neighborhood Association.

The Office of Violence Prevention has so far hired two violence interrupters and plans to expand the team by two more soon.