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Initiatives aim to support crime prevention

By Heather Graves
Editor


BROWN COUNTY – One of the things those in law enforcement can all agree on is crime prevention is far better than crime reaction.

“$1 raised for crime prevention saves $10 in the future,” Kevin Warych, operations commander of the Green Bay Police Department, said. “Crime prevention is a community effort.The police department, any police department, cannot do this alone. Remember, policing is about working with the community, not for or to a community. It’s with – that’s a very important word – and we need the neighborhood associations to be our eyes and ears in the neighborhoods when police officers can’t be there regardless of the jurisdiction you work. We need the nonprofits to be ears on the ground to tell us what’s going on in the community – a totally different perspective of something that we may not even know.”

Warych said it’s the desire every community has of being free of crime and disorder which sparked the creation of the Brown County Crime Prevention Foundation.

“We empower people,” he said. “We empower nonprofits, neighborhood associations – any eligible entities may apply for these grants for crime prevention initiatives.”

The foundation was the brainchild of local businessman and self-described project do-gooder Patrick Murphy.

Murphy said the effort dates back to 1999 when an economic downturn threatened the funding of the Brown County Sheriff’s Office’s DARE program.

“I felt that there was an important program, so I said, Tom (Hinz, the sheriff at the time), I would like to help you raise money to salvage the DARE program in Brown County,” he said.

Things began to unfold after that and Murphy worked with Hinz and the Brown County Board to formulate a long-term plan.

“I said the only way we can do something for DARE long term, the only long-term way to fund something is with a foundation,” he said. “And so I said, let’s start a foundation. I’ll help you raise a million dollars on it and then I’m out… Let’s do it county-wide, and in 2001, the Brown County Crime Prevention Foundation, which is managed through the Green Bay Community Foundation, was created.”

Murphy said the foundation hasn’t quite hit $1 million yet.

“I said I’d be involved for a year, we’ll raise a million dollars and then I’m out,” he said. “Well, we have about $450,000 in our foundation, and we’ve given out about $350,000 in grants. And we give out roughly 5% of the foundation total every year.”

The Brown County Crime Prevention Foundation is governed by a board of directors independent of any political or governmental body.

The mission of the board is to support crime prevention activities in Brown County.

“It’s not the police department running these initiatives.” Warych, who has been a foundation board member for about seven years, said. “That’s the opposite of what we want. We’re empowering people in our community to do these crime prevention initiatives, along with the police department’s crime prevention initiatives as well.”

Grant applications for this year will be accepted April 30 through the end of June.

“I think it is known,” Warych said. “But once a year it is a good reminder for people to say, ‘Hey, there’s money available to do these initiatives. Please do it. For example, one neighborhood association reached out and said, ‘We want to do this program where we set up Ring doorbells and we want to apply for a grant, will you help us?’ Sure. You pick the locations, you pick everything about what you want to do with the program, and I will give you the information that is subject to open records.”

Warych said the Green Bay Police Department’s Teen Academy was funded through a foundation grant.

“We’ve written grants for the teen academy that really bridges the gap, and breaks through social barriers of what policing is to younger kids interested in the profession,” he said. “We’ve also had grants for Building Bridges, which is our community-engagement efforts with the Hispanic and Latino community. We wrote a grant one year for a new McGruff the Crime Dog uniform.”

Warych said the foundation grants allow community members to be part of change, part of the solution.

“Being a police officer, you’re always wanting to help and you’re always wanting to make sure that you’re part of the solution and trying to get rid of crime in our community,” he said. “This is just one aspect, one fraction of that… The longer you’re a police officer, the more you realize that you cannot arrest your way out of problems. You can’t do this alone, meaning you can’t do this alone as a single department. This has to be a community effort to help empower, guide, mentor and support people in our community because we’re all in this together to make sure that crime doesn’t occur here in the Greater Green Bay area.”

He said grant recipients are usually notified in August or September.

Murphy said the foundation hosts a variety of fundraisers to help raise funds for the foundation, which he admits isn’t always easy.

 “I thought it’d be easy to raise a million dollars,” he said. “So, we started things like an annual crimefighter program and that became administrative heavy. So, now we have a lifetime crimefighter for $100 for an individual and $250 dollars for an organization – you can be a lifetime crimefighter and then you’d be on our website as a crimefighter.”

Warych said the foundation also has collection buckets at establishments throughout the county collecting donations year-round.

“If you’ve got spare change, you can dump it in there,” he said. “The foundation’s very proactive about having these plastic containers at local stations, and we’ve partnered with the (Brown County) Tavern League in the past. So if someone has 75 cents, they throw it in there, and we collect those containers over the course of the year. You’d be surprised at how much money that generates over the course of the year.”

More information on the Brown County Crime Prevention Foundation and its grant application process can be found at: crimepreventionfoundation.com/

Brown County Crime Prevention Grant Funding Bill

Every time a crime is committed in Brown County, the process to bring that individual or individuals to justice incurs costs to taxpayers.

In an attempt to potentially recoup some of the costs county taxpayers are on the hook for in connection with crime, the Brown County Crime Prevention Grant Funding Bill was drafted and conditionally adopted by the State Legislature.

Murphy said crime prevention is the way to really solve society’s problems.

“You’ve got to solve it with prevention, not with punishment and incarceration,” he said. “If you can prevent a crime from being committed, you don’t have victims, and you don’t have criminals, right? So that’s why it’s very proactive. It’s very positive. I’ve never met anybody who says, ‘I’m against crime prevention.’”

However, funding crime prevention, Murphy said, is another story.

Murphy said if crime prevention is a good idea in Brown County, it should be a good idea statewide, which led him on his next crusade.

“Why just confine crime prevention, funding and operations to Brown County?” he said. “There’s 72 counties in Wisconsin…  If it’s good for Brown County, why wouldn’t it be good for all 72 counties in Wisconsin, right?”

The efforts to bring a bill to the assembly to enact a $20 surcharge on all convicted felonies and misdemeanors, which would go into a crime prevention fund.

“If you are convicted, you cost the taxpayers of that county real money – incarceration, treatment,” Murphy said. “So it is a very minor way – by definition, criminals are not necessarily the higher income of the country, so it can’t be a big fine – but it should be a fine and some contribution to crime prevention within the county you committed the crime in.”

Murphy said the effort had its ups and downs.

After a couple of years of push back from the state’s clerk association, or being cut out of the budget by committees or line-item vetos, it finally made it through in 2015, however, it was passed as county optional.

“Every county has to adopt it in order to get it done,” Murphy said.

Warych said of the state’s 72 counties, seven have enacted the surcharge.

“I think it’s a no-brainer,” he said.

Murphy said the Brown County Crime Prevention Grant Funding Bill continues to reach out to other counties to promote the surcharge.

He said he hopes more counties will enact it in the future.

Murphy said the grant awarding process is very similar to the Brown County Crime Prevention Foundation’s process, however, it accepts applications year-round.

“There’s different avenues out there and the same pool of people that apply for the Brown County Crime Prevention Foundation can apply for a grant through the grant funding bill as well, right? And sometimes I’ve seen in the past where the foundation says no to someone because they don’t meet the criteria or (the foundation is) out of money or they have too many grants for the money that’s given – they then direct people to the funding bill grant program.”

More information on the Brown County Crime Prevention Grant Funding Bill, visit browncountywi.gov/government/committees/crime-prevention-funding-board/

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