Sophie Bolich

Bucks Tightening Deer District Security Ahead of Playoffs

Community ambassadors, increased police presence and 'leave it at home' initiative aim to protect fans for Bucks postseason.

By - Apr 14th, 2023 04:11 pm
City leaders, community partners and law enforcement gathered at Deer District for an April 14 press conference.

Workers construct a blockade surrounding Deer District ahead of the 2023 NBA playoffs. Photo taken April 14, 2023 by Sophie Bolich.

As the Milwaukee Bucks prepare for the NBA playoffs this weekend, city leaders and law enforcement are taking measures to boost security at Deer District and the surrounding area.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson, along with Office of Violence Prevention director Ashanti Hamilton, Bucks president Peter Feigin, assistant police chief Paul Formolo and Fire Chief Aaron Lipski gathered at Deer District Friday morning to announce an increased police presence, community ambassador program and a ‘leave it at home’ initiative.

“I’ve mentioned a number of times before that Downtown is really everybody’s neighborhood, and I want everybody to feel comfortable and safe when they’re in downtown Milwaukee,” Johnson said.

Starting this weekend, Deer District and the surrounding area will see an increased police presence during and after each game. In addition to uniformed officers, a cohort of 50 young people will act as community ambassadors, monitoring crowds inside the venue and throughout nearby blocks.

The mayor said the ambassadors will be “a friendly presence,” acting as the “eyes and ears” for security personnel during the playoffs. Ambassadors will be easily identifiable in black jackets, and will be in direct contact with Fiserv Forum security, who in turn communicate with the Milwaukee Police Department.

Ambassadors will receive compensation for their work, thanks to funding from the Bucks.

“The Bucks have really stepped up in a big way…connecting to the youth across this city and giving them an opportunity to take responsibility for keeping this downtown area safe during the playoff season,” Hamilton said.

Friday’s speakers also introduced the “leave it at home” initiative, urging fans to avoid leaving valuables — especially firearms — in their vehicles.

“If you cannot bring it in this building, then do not bring it at all,” Johnson said.

The initiative aims to decrease instances of vehicle break-ins and theft, as well as occurrences of stolen firearms.

“We have extra eyes, we have extra ears, people are watching, people are paying attention,” Hamilton said. “One of the biggest things that you can do in helping in this effort is not bringing valuables down here that you’re not bringing into the facility. Especially firearms, please leave those at home. We don’t need them down here. We have many people that are working down here to help keep you safe.”

A blockade surrounding the plaza and beer garden at Deer District went up earlier this week. The fencing, which was also in place last year, creates designated entry and exit points for visitors, while allowing officials to control the number of people in the space.

The enhanced security comes in the wake of gun violence that rocked the entertainment district during the 2022 playoffs. In a single night last May, three separate shootings occurred downtown, injuring 21 people, following a playoff game. However, none of the shootings took place on Deer District property.

The Bucks will host game one of their first-round series this Sunday, April 16 at 4:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast for fans on an outdoor screen at the beer garden, which has been transformed into the Tanduay Tiki Hut for the playoffs. The second home game will occur Wednesday, with the two road games scheduled for April 22 and April 24 (both will have Deer District watch parties).

Fans are encouraged to watch the games at The MECCA Sports Bar and Grill, or any of the establishments in Deer District. Additional information about plaza activations will be announced in the coming weeks.


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