Property where nuisance activity occurs regularly is a blight on the whole neighborhood. The nuisances frighten away law abiding residents, discourage reinvestment, and consume police and other city services. Responsible property owners can and usually do take steps to discourage those that cause such behaviors from occupying their buildings. The Chronic Nuisance Property Code says to property owners, in effect, “If you do not take action to try to stop these nuisances from recurring, then you and not the taxpayers will pay the cost of the police that must respond to your building."
There are over 25 nuisance activities listed in the code, including but not limited to loud music, loitering, illegal drug activity, harassment, disorderly conduct, battery, indecent exposure, prostitution, littering, keeping animals that disturb the peace, and discharge of a firearm. A complete list can be found in 80-10-2 of the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances.
When the Milwaukee Police Department receives a complaint about a residential or commercial property, the Community Prosecution Unit reviews the phone calls for service for that specified address.
To qualify as a nuisance, there must be a minimum of three phone calls for service in a 30-day period or two vice, violence, or gang complaints in one year. Essential phone calls for emergency situations that are not enumerated in the nuisance ordinance or incidents that are unrelated to a specified address are not included in this count (e.g. calls for sick or injured persons, traffic or subject stops that are unrelated to the residence, etc.).
If a property does not have the requisite number of phone calls for service, additional follow-up by the CPU may be required. Follow-up may include door-to-door outreach in the area to confirm complaints; “knock and talks” to address issues directly with the occupants of the property; informal contact with the landlord to let them know about the nature of the complaints against their property; monitoring activity on the property; or referrals to an outside resource that can best address the issues on the premises.
If a property qualifies as a nuisance, a file is opened, and a letter is sent to its owner, detailing the nature of the nuisance and requesting a plan of action (also known as an abatement plan) within 10 days to address the problems.
- If the plan is accepted, the property is monitored for 45 days. No further action is taken against a property owner, if the complaints stop.
- In the event that the complaints continue, another letter is sent, notifying the owner that their plan needs revision. A modified plan is expected within 10 days. If this modified plan is accepted, the property is monitored for an additional 45 days. Again, no further action will be taken against the property owner, if the complaints stop.
- When the plan or a modified version of the plan is not accepted, the property is monitored and billed for activity.
- If the owner does not respond to the initial nuisance letter or a letter asking for a modified plan, a failure to respond letter is sent to the owner prior to the property being monitored every 30 days and billed for activity.
- Properties with three bills in one year are considered a “Chronic Nuisance” and are therefore eligible for a citation between $1,000 and $5,000 for every nuisance related call for service.
View a Flowchart of the Nuisance Process
Depending on the severity of the situation, you may want to approach the property owner first to discuss the problems on their property. DNS Property Data can be used to locate the owner.
For suspected crimes in progress and life-threatening situations, dial 911 (only if crime in progress).
For properties that have issues that are only environmental (e.g. litter, pest or animal complaints, broken windows, nuisance vehicles, overgrown grass or weeds, overcrowding), please contact the Department of Neighborhood Services or the Department of Public Works. These issues can also be reported to City Services through Milwaukee's E-Notify Service.
Concerned neighbors are encouraged to call the Non-Emergency number (933-4444) to report nuisance activity. These phone calls are tracked by the Milwaukee Police Department. If possible, keep a detailed log of the nuisance activity, including the date, time, location, and a description of the activity as well as the names of anyone you contacted about the problem (the owner, police officers, etc.).
To report a nuisance property, you can:
- Attend a District Two Crime and Safety Meeting and speak with your CPU representatives in person
- Call Assistant District Attorney Ann Lopez at 935-7627
- Complete a Hot Spot Form (Spanish) and submit it with the instructions on the form
You can choose to remain anonymous when reporting properties in your area.