MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, and Milwaukee Common Council President Michael Murphy spoke with reporters on Sunday afternoon, January 24th after a busy weekend as it relates to vehicle thefts and carjackings. Barrett, Flynn and Murphy said they are especially concerned after another young man lost his life in a crash involving a stolen vehicle that happened on Saturday, January 23rd -- and these city leaders are pushing for change.
The crash happened near N. Port Washington Road and Capitol Drive.
A 16-year-old boy was killed when a stolen vehicle struck another vehicle, and the collision caused the vehicle to strike a home and come to rest on its roof. The 16-year-old boy was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene, and several others fled the stolen vehicle on foot. Police say speed was a factor in this crash.
Mayor Barrett was at the scene of this crash on Saturday, after receiving word of the crash while on his way to a community event at 20th and Keefe.
"We immediately went to the scene, and the ambulance was still there with the body of a young man who died in that stolen vehicle still inside. This is a scene we have seen far too often in Milwaukee over the past 12 months," Mayor Barrett said.
Barrett said over the past 12 months in Milwaukee, 14 people have lost their lives in crashes involving stolen vehicles.
Barrett said none of these deaths involved a police pursuit.
"All involved young people who had a stolen car -- sometimes taken in a carjacking, traveling at high rates of speed. Some were very, very young. Sometimes it was the driver killed. Sometimes it was the passenger," Barrett said.
Barrett mentioned a crash at 19th and Olive that happened last Monday, January 18th.
Police say a 2008 Honda CRV, that was taken in an armed robbery on January 15th was traveling at a high rate of speed -- headed westbound on Olive Street when it attempted to pass another vehicle that was also headed westbound.
The Honda CRV struck the other vehicle, lost control, and then crashed into the tree.
19-year-old Giovanni Cole was killed. His passengers, a 15-year-old female and a 16-year-old female, were taken to the hospital with serious injuries.
Barrett said young people in Milwaukee need to understand that stealing a vehicle, and then choosing to drive that stolen vehicle, sometimes at a high rate of speed, can have deadly consequences.
"This is not a game. This is not a game at all. You may play video games. You might like having fun. There's a lot of young people who have lost friends, and have made makeshift memorials for friends of theirs involved in stolen vehicle accidents. If you think it's cute, if you think it's funny, it's not. This is life and death," Mayor Barrett said.
Mayor Barrett, Chief Flynn and Common Council President Murphy said the responsibility, when it comes to vehicle thefts and subsequent crashes involving stolen vehicles lies not only with police in apprehending those responsible, but also with the parents of young people in Milwaukee, and also, the criminal justice system as a whole.
"Parents must make sure they know what their kids are doing. Who are they playing with? Who are they hanging out with? What are they doing with their free time? I've got teenagers. I know this isn't always easy. But you cannot allow your kids to put themselves in situations that will result in you getting a knock on your door to tell you your son or daughter was just killed in a stolen vehicle accident. You may not like the police, the community, or the way people respond to these incidents, but you don't want to lose your child," Mayor Barrett said.
There has been some criticism of the Milwaukee Police Department's pursuit policy, and the feeling among some criminals that MPD will not pursue vehicles in the city.
Mayor Barrett said in 2015, there were "well over" 200 vehicle pursuits by the Milwaukee Police Department, whereas if you go back a few years, the number of pursuits may have averaged 50.
"You have individuals trying to send word to the community that police won't chase you if you carjack a car. If you carjack a car, we are going to chase you," Mayor Barrett said.
"We have to make sure that the individuals who steal cars, who carjack vehicles, who are repeat offenders, especially, face real consequences. We know how many arrests MPD makes. We have to make sure as it goes through the whole system, every component of this system, to make sure there are consequences for offenders who repeat this over and over again. We are not doing these kids any favors if they steal a car and steal another car and nothing happens to them. We are certainly not doing this community any favors," Mayor Barrett said.
Chief Flynn mentioned the Milwaukee Police Department's "Anti Carjacking Task Force" which was created on December 1st, in conjunction with MPD's "Area Violent Crimes Task Force."
Flynn said there were 94 carjackings in Milwaukee prior to the formation of this task force -- and the number was reduced to 40% within the first six weeks of the task force's formation.
As of January 24th, Chief Flynn said MPD is on pace to reduce the number of carjackings in Milwaukee by 50%.
Flynn said since the task force's creation, nearly 30 people have been arrested in Milwaukee for carjackings since December 1st.
On Friday, January 22nd, it was announced that Milwaukee police had arrested more than a dozen people in a 48-hour period for carjackings.
Chief Flynn also addressed this weekend's fatal crash at N. Port Washington Road and Capitol Drive -- telling reporters that the 16-year-old boy killed in the crash was on probation at the time, with GPS supervision.
Flynn said the boy had been on an "auto theft robbery task force list" since August of 2014, and he was "well known to us for car theft."
Flynn said in August, there was concern within two different agencies regarding the placement of this boy at home, because there were concerns about his behavior. At 16 years old, he had been arrested six times by two agencies for motor vehicle theft, armed robbery, carrying a concealed weapon, resisting arrest and curfew violations.
Flynn said one of the concerns highlighted by this fatal crash is that police are not able to get real-time GPS monitoring information for these juveniles.
"We had been looking for him for some time, and sadly found him at the scene of the crash on Saturday," Chief Flynn said. "He's out, driving around on GPS monitoring that we have no real-time access to that information."
Flynn also mentioned a wild car chase that started on the city's south side and ended near 107th and Silver Spring Drive that ended with four 13-year-old boys in custody. Milwaukee police say a 32-year-old woman was robbed and beaten by these four teenagers. Her purse was stolen and the suspects got away -- but not for long.
The driver in this case was arrested by MPD in December of 2015 -- less than a month before the pursuit.
His passenger had two prior arrest for motor vehicle theft and operating without the owner's consent, and two arrests for resisting.
Another passenger was arrested by MPD for resisting, and for four prior motor vehicle thefts, and has prior admitted involvement in driving cars at high rates of speed.
"The problem is this: We are dealing with immature brains for whom right now it's a status-driven fad to steal cars. There is a subset that steal cars at gunpoint. There are others that steal cars that people carelessly leave with keys in the ignition. Our biggest challenge is the rest of the system so far appears to be incapable of dealing with high rate juvenile offenders who are a threat to their own lives and the lives of the innocent. We need to do a better job of coming up with meaningful ways to hold these juveniles that are still out there on the streets driving stolen cars. We cannot be surprised when there is a significant increase in the stolen car rate when there's no meaningful sanctions or services generated for anyone arrested in that stolen car. An arrest is not a meaningful sanction. Other parts of the system must provide an appropriate array of services and sanctions so these offenders learn something from this experience, otherwise it will continue to be a real-life version of grand theft auto and people will continue to die," Chief Flynn said.
Chief Flynn mentioned real-time access to GPS monitoring data, and real-time access to who is on probation as changes he'd like to see within the criminal justice system.
"The status quo isn't working. Doing nothing is an option that's resulting in increases in crime, injuries and death," Flynn said.
"I'm not calling for every person to be locked up. But when someone has a record as long as my arm, and the only punishment is a day, perhaps a day in jail, it's insignificant. The great frustration is that children are not being held responsible for their actions by parents, by the criminal court system, as offenders are repeatedly brought in and released. It deters the morale of the Milwaukee Police Department and our citizens, and it makes a mockery of the justice system. We are doing our children no great favor by putting them back out on the street where they create carnage and end up killing themselves or their passengers or God forbid some innocent citizen trying to go to work," Common Council President Murphy said.
In addition to changes to the criminal justice system, Chief Flynn mentioned there's something simple we can all do to decrease the number of car thefts in Milwaukee.
Flynn said 50% of stolen cars are the result of people leaving the keys inside to warm them up.
"Please put up with a cold butt for 20 minutes, instead of leaving your car with the keys in it and ending up with a deadly pursuit. That's what happened on Saturday," Flynn said.