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Lawmakers Point Fingers Over Milwaukee Crime Numbers

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A state lawmaker is threatening to propose cuts to Milwaukee funding if crime isn't controlled

The topic of crime in Milwaukee has taken center stage this week, as a legislator from Menomonee Falls warned that she would take action. GOP Representative Janel Brandtjen said she would push to cut state funding for Milwaukee, if the city is not able to curtail crime. 

Brandtjen is upset over a carjacking that happened in Milwaukee but led to a high speed chase into her district and the arrest of five juveniles. But not every agrees that cutting state funds is the answer.

This is what Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn had to say shortly after five Milwaukee teens were recently arrested after stealing a car and leading police on a high speed chase into Washington County: “Everybody we arrest sometimes it feels like, certainly last night, is already out on supervision. That’s the running joke."

Four of the five teens arrested were already under Milwaukee County supervision or on probation.

Mayor Tom Barrett called on the county to do a better job. “There has to be consequences, and if it has to be out of home placement then it has to be out of home placement. But county supervision has to be meaningful,” he said.

This week, Menomonee Falls Assemblywoman Janel Brandtjen said Barrett has to do more. She’s calling on him to fill vacant police positions, arrest more car thieves, demand prison for repeat criminals and stand up to judges who aren’t tough enough with repeat offenders.

The mayor responded with a written statement saying he is addressing public safety on all fronts, and would welcome assistance from the state and county in improving the criminal justice system.

County Executive Chris Abele says that relationships between the county, city and state work best when there is no finger pointing. He says all play a role in ensuring public safety.

“Everybody cares about violence, everybody cares about doing the best we can. But the way we do that effectively is like every city in the country you’ve got a bunch of different parts of the system that are independent that don’t report to each other. So we work effectively when we maintain good professional relationships. So if I have an issue with something at MPD or at the courts or the DA’s office, I call,” Abele says.

As for whether Abele has heard from surrounding area legislators concerned about crime spilling into their municipalities, he says no. He also says cutting state funding as Brandtjen has suggested might worsen conditions.

“I’m not really clear how less resources is going to help solve a problem she says she’s concerned about,” Abele says.

At a stop in Milwaukee on Wednesday, Gov. Walker agreed.

“I don’t think the answer is cutting resources to the city of Milwaukee, I think it’s working together to make sure the resources the state provides are used in the most effective way possible. Whether it’s for law enforcement, whether it’s for programs working with nonprofits, whether it’s strengthening families there’s no one simple answer to combat crime here in the city. It takes a variety of things and people working together,” Walker said.

Milwaukee leaders say they have increased funding for the police department by $91 million, while the state has cut funding by $12 million a year.

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