March 14, 2001 Wednesday Final Edition Copyright 2001 Journal Sentinel Inc. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel March 14, 2001 Wednesday Final Edition
(MILWAUKEE) -- A new police policy in which patrolling officers check at least one tavern in their patrol area on each shift has been in effect about a week, Deputy Chief Leslie Barber announced Tuesday.
The policy took effect after police arrested several people who had illegal weapons and drugs in a tavern March 7, Barber said at a news conference. The deputy chief refused to name the tavern.
He said police concluded from that situation that they could stand to be more "diligent" in looking for criminal activity in places that serve alcohol.
Spot checks at bars for illegal activity will now become a daily regimen, Barber said, adding that the checks will not be "adversarial."
Officers in all seven police districts are now making daily stops in at least one tavern per shift in their patrol areas, Barber said.
Police spokeswoman Karen Pride Garvin said Tuesday evening that the number of patrol areas in each district is a deployment issue and the department would not release that information.
"This is not a crackdown, and no one area will be targeted," she said. All establishments licensed to sell alcohol, from corner taverns to bars in downtown hotels, can expect to be visited, she said.
There are about 1,100 licensed taverns in Milwaukee, said Jim Copeland, assistant manager of the city License Division.
Barber said officers will be enforcing "quality of life" ordinances and making sure that liquor licenses are valid as part of the random spot checks.
Tavern owners had a variety of responses to the new policy Tuesday.
"There really isn't a problem, so why not be on the street where you know the problems are?" said Joe Janz, owner of Liquid Johnny's, 540 S. 76th St., and a member of the Wisconsin Tavern League.
But Kendall Kelly, co-owner of the Mecca Cocktail Lounge, 3801 W. Hampton Ave., said he saw benefits with random police visits.
"I don't know about the policy itself, but I like the fact that I have an officer walk through my building," Kelly said. "It kind of keeps that bad element away.
" Sometimes preventive maintenance is the key."
Ald. Jim Bohl, a member of the Common Council's Utilities and Licensing Committee, said he was unaware of the new policy but thinks there are some positive things about police being proactive.
"For owners who are maintaining taverns on the up and up, having the police occasionally grace through should not be a problem," he said.