New director of Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention shares his plans

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) --- It's been one month since Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson named a new director for the city's Office of Violence Prevention (OVP).

Former district 1 alderman, Ashanti Hamilton, is now leading OVP after Arnitta Holliman was unexpectedly dismissed from the role back in August.

In his first sit-down interview since taking over as OVP director, Hamilton shares his plans with CBS 58's Tajma Hall.

Hamilton talked about why he feels he's qualified for the role and how his previous experience as an alderman and Common Council president will be a benefit to moving OVP forward.

Hamilton says his plan is not to overhaul the work of previous directors but to build on it.

Collaboration and strengthening existing partnerships is the key to the success of OVP, Hamilton said.

For the past year, OVP has been scrutinized. Earlier this year, some of Hamilton's former, fellow Common Council members demanded statistical analysis of the OVP to prove that it's working.

In order for the office to get anything more done, Hamilton says he needs more staff and wants to work on redefining public perception of the work they do. This is something previous director Holliman has also identified as a goal and challenge in the past.

"I think there are so many instances that numbers and statistics have not been able to capture about the work, and I think it's going to be our challenge to be able to show the community those stories and those measurements that we are committing ourselves to," Hamilton explained.

He hopes to grow his staff by the end of the year. "Right now, we have four members of this office. It is the goal by the end of the year to staff up to approximately 12 members," he said.

Hamilton says he supported the work of the OVP in his past role but now, being in this position, he's getting a different perspective.

"What I did not know is that there are some decisions that we make as policy makers, requirements that we put on departments that actually make the work more difficult, even in our efforts to try to help sometimes," he said.

One of his initial goals is to work with his former colleagues in the Common Council to help streamline collaboration. "I think that's one of the benefits of having me here," he said.

One of the main challenges ahead is redefining public perception.

"Part of the problem that we're facing with the Office of Violence Prevention is the idea and expectation that's created in the community. I think we need to have a realistic conversation about what's to be expected out of the office," Hamilton said.

Hamilton says redefining OVP's metrics of success is a priority. He says violence is a complex issue and no one public official or department can be held fully responsible for preventing it.

The hope is that over time, the impact of OVP's work is felt across the city. Hamilton wants to achieve this by making stronger efforts to gather direct feedback from communities most impacted by violence. He feels those are the people who should set the standards of success.

Hamilton says he has already connected with some community organizations and faith leaders to hear their ideas. Doing some work on the south side of the city is a goal in the short-term. He's open to continuing those talks with others as well.

"We are going to create a platform for the community to be able to participate in the work as well, so they're not just standing on the sidelines watching the work. They actually have a role to play in improving it and making it better," he said.

You can view the full interview here.

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