Police tape at a crime sceneWe are used to hearing stories of police fighting the war on drugs, terrorism and crime in general. But how about the police fighting -- alongside homeowners -- the war on foreclosures?

In what has got to be one of the more unique uses of an urban police force in recent memory, on-duty members of the Milwaukee PD this week are joining with various community organizations to form a sort of SWAT team doing battle against the blight foreclosures can and do cause.
One police officer, Lisa Saffold, tells a local television station: "Empty houses impact our area because a lot of crimes occur when people walk by and they realize that a home is vacant. That's where you're going to get a lot of drug dealing."

So, what exactly are the Milwaukee cops doing to arrest the foreclosure rate in their city?

For one thing, they zero in on the neighborhoods that have the highest rates of foreclosure. Then they fan out and try to deliver to area residents what they need most -- accurate and reliable foreclosure information, along with ways of connecting with the right people in the community who might be able to help them out of their financial mess.

Presently, the city has some 1,200 properties that are vacant and bank owned.

When the police show up at someone's door, they are armed not only with their traditional weapons, but with pamphlets containing important foreclosure information.

As is often the case with such police programs, the city has even come up with a sort of mantra for it: "Prevention, intervention and stabilization."

It is not clear whether this unusual program will go on after this week -- but it should!

And, other cities and towns ought to take note. Surely, fighting foreclosures that leave some people homeless while, at the same time, leaving entire neighborhoods ghosts of their former selves, is as vital to the homeland security as is looking for would-be domestic terrorists?

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle." He has written about real estate related issues for several years.

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