She was sitting in her car at the Target on Miller Park Way last week, signing the birthday cards she had bought in the store. Suddenly guns were pointed at her through both front windows. She got out, gave up her purse and watched as two kids drove away with her car.
My daughter was in the same parking lot when this carjacking occurred. Once my daughter found out what had happened, she posted on Facebook:
"Holy hell, I was IN this Target when this happened. I can't even bring myself to think about this happening to me with the boys (she has two sons) in the car. Stay alert, don't sit in a running car, lock your doors. Sometimes I just want to pull the covers over my head for a really long time."
Just a couple of days later, six people were arrested after a Ford Escape and a GMC Terrain were hijacked. That night, police spotted the Escape and gave chase, before the Escape crashed. Police arrested two 12-year-old boys, a 13-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy. When the police stopped the Terrain, they arrested a 12-year-old boy, a 15-year-old boy and an 18-year-old man.
According to the police report, all six had been arrested before and collectively had 31 charges against them. Four of them were on Milwaukee County probation. Both carjackings were conducted with guns.
On Monday, Police Chief Edward Flynn testified before the city Public Safety Committee about the alarming rise in carjackings.
"Since 2014, carjackings have risen 700 percent," he said. "It’s complicated. But what happens is that these kids do something and get caught. But their ‘a-ha’ moment doesn’t mean anything because nothing happens to them.
"They are supposed to be supervised, but there is no supervision going on. There is supposed to be GPS monitoring, but we never get real-time information. We're lucky if the county social workers notify us the next day.
"They are back in their community and free to do what they want. Carjacking is kind of a status thing. Kind of a 'I got a Mercedes, can you get an Audi?' kind of thing.
"It’s an exciting world of adventure and status."
Flynn read a horrifying litany of children who had records for multiple offenses. He cited the case of one 12-year-old who was arrested after he had previously been arrested six times.
"Everybody we arrest, sometimes it feels like, is already out 'on supervision,'" he said last week. "It's a running joke. Being on county supervision is not being on supervision at all, and the kids know it."
William Jessup, an assistant chief with the MPD, testified that the department doesn’t get real-time information on the GPS tracking used to monitor the activities of juveniles. If a kid moves outside the range he’s supposed to be in, Jessup said, the police don’t know until contact is initiated by the outside contractor hired to track these kids. In addition, Flynn said the ankle bracelets that are used are not tracked at night.
A private non-profit company, Justice Point, is charged with doing the monitoring for these kids, and the contract calls for them to notify the County Department of Human Services.
This is not an easily solved problem. There are a wide variety of actors who are involved in putting a halt to this kind of juvenile crime. The county, city and state all have roles. And the potential for bureaucratic foul ups and obstruction is immense. Much of the difficulty also stems from inadequate funding.
"There are many workers who are great at supervising 20 people," Flynn said. "But they can’t supervise 60 people."
Alderman Mark Borkowski spoke for some residents in his district who take a hard line against juvenile offenders.
"There is no sense of urgency (to solve the problem)," he said. "We have not had the political will to spend money for more police officers or to go after the court system for the leniency of these punks. They’re laughing at us."
Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton urged the chief to come up with ideas for better cooperation between the court system, child welfare departments and the police.
"Sending children back to an environment that couldn’t supervise them in the first place doesn’t seem to be the wisest course of action," he said.
Flynn said the police arrest five or six juveniles every day of the week. What happens to those kids, most often, is that they get a court date about six months in the future and get sent home "under parent supervision."
You don’t have to be a public policy expert to see that the system is broken and it’s going to take influence, power and money to get it fixed.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
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