MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A Wisconsin lawmaker says the solution to the problem of violence in and around Milwaukee is more police on patrol -- and he says accomplishing this is simply a matter of "prioritizing our spending." He is proposing an increase in funding for the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Officer Grants Program -- but where would the money come from?
"There is a crime problem prevalent around the state. We're taking a look at how we're gonna re-appropriate some of this money, and it's really a matter of prioritizing our spending," Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) said.
On Monday morning, May 11th, Rep. Sanfelippo said crime statistics in Wisconsin suggest the need for a new solution.
"The police grant program right now has $2 million in funding. We're proposing to increase that by $14 million -- to bring the whole program up to $16 million," Rep. Sanfelippo said.
Rep. Sanfelippo says this money would potentially put more law enforcement officers to work across the state.
"We're putting this program out there without increasing additional funding on the part of the state," Rep. Sanfelippo said.
This, he says, means the money must come at a cost to other programs -- which potentially include the diesel truck idling reduction efforts, walleye production contracts and the Wisconsin Parole Commission, among others.
"I'd love to have additional dollars for public safety -- absolutely," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.
But Mayor Barrett says he'd have to be certain as to where the money is coming from.
"We don't wanna rob Peter to pay Paul. In other words, I don't want them to take it out of programs, for example, for youth employment, but what I want to do is see if there's places in the state budget where we can utilize those dollars," Mayor Barrett said.
Rep. Sanfelippo says his proposal would make all municipalities, sheriff's departments and special tactical units eligible for participation in the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Officer Grants Program.
"If we're going to start rebuilding our communities and making people feel safe, we need to start right at the low-level," Rep. Sanfelippo said.
Lisa Marshall with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism says some of the proposed re-allocation would involve changes to state law.
Rep. Sanfelippo says he's open to considering cuts to programs other than those he's cited so far.
Alderman Bob Donovan, West Allis Mayor Dan Devine, Milwaukee Police Association President Mike Crivello and a representative from the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office joined Rep. Sanfelippo for a news conference Monday morning.
“This proposal is something I’ve advocated for when meeting with legislators in Madison. It would be great to see a working partnership with members of the Legislature that could produce state legislation that would deliver additional officers to Milwaukee and other communities across the region and the state,” Alderman Donovan said in a statement to FOX6 News.
Again -- Rep. Sanfelippo's bill LRB-4098, would bolster the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Officer Grants Program by increasing overall funding, expanding the list of eligible applicants to include county sheriff’s departments and removing the minimum size requirement for eligible communities.
Municipalities or counties that receive the grants would be required to use the money to hire additional law enforcement officers whose primary duties are conducting beat patrols. Because every community is different, the grants could also go toward employing specialized law enforcement officers who would focus on drug abuse or other localized issues.
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