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Masked avengers keep Milwaukee streets safe

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Milwaukee’s masked crime fighters. Photos by Brian Jacobson, courtesy Third Coast Digest.

It would be pretty amazing if superheroes were real — patrolling Milwaukee and making sure we stay safe at night.  As it turns out, some masked crime-fighters do exist, and Milwaukee does indeed have its own disguised heroes.

“Watchman” and “Blackbird” have spent months patrolling Milwaukee as masked crusaders making sure the streets stay safe.

Tea Krulos, an expert on real life superheroes, is currently writing a book about them from all over the country. Krulos often patrols with Watchman and Blackbird and said the duo has recently narrowed their efforts to be most effective.

“When we first met, they were randomly patrolling different parts of the city,” Krulos said.  “Six months ago they decided to try to focus on one small area.  They wanted to see if it’s effective, see if they can get the community involved.  They patrol two or three times a month in the area around Center Street.”

Krulos said they chose that area for several reasons.  The area has crime problems, but at the same time, it is not an seriously dangerous neighborhood.  Krulos said the community itself is pretty well known to being receptive to unusual approaches.

“Dressing up like a superhero isn’t that weird,” Krulos said.

Watchman and Blackbird do not actually engage with criminals they see.  While on patrol, they act as an extra set of eyes and ears for the police force, armed with only pepper spray and a cell phone.  If they see anything, they phone it in to the police.

Despite patrolling with them more than 20 times, Krulos has yet to run into anything major with the heroes.

“Usually the biggest things we run into are helping people get home and making sure drunk people get rides,” Krulos said.

As for the names, Krulos said he believes Blackbird models himself after Batman, while Watchman took the name to show the general need for people to be watchful.  The Watchman name is a device to get others involved.

The heroes work well with law enforcement and hope to get others involved in making sure the neighborhood stays safe.  Lt. Paul Mascari of the Department of Public Safety believes that setting up a neighborhood watch program would be a good start.

“Anytime the neighborhood wants to get involved and keep the neighborhood safe and work in conjunction with police, that is a good thing,” Mascari said.

“We’ve tried to get neighborhood watch programs in the off campus neighborhood, but that’s hard to do since (the residents) are so temporary,” he added. “But students do a great job in reporting suspicious activities and so do the people in the neighborhood.”

However, Mascari said he would never advocate putting personal safety at risk or taking matters into one’s own hands.

“The first time I ever saw Watchman was in a dark park and his trench coat was blowing in the wind,” said Krulos.  “It doesn’t really hit you how neat it is until you see him in person.”

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