MILWAUKEE -- On Saturday, Oct. 26, a group of Milwaukee leaders held a news conference to address reckless driving in Milwaukee.
The conference was held in response to a fatal hit-and-run accident that happened Thursday night, Oct. 23. A six-year-old girl and her four-year-old sister and 10-year-old cousin were left fighting for their lives after they were struck by a reckless driver near 22nd and Center Street.
"We've got some jerk who decides he's going to ignore the traffic lights, and his insane driving causes the death of one child -- and another child is clinging for their life," said Mayor Tom Barrett.
The driver did not stop.
"I'm so sorry that you can't walk across the street safely in my district," said Alderman Russell Stamper II.
City leaders say they're working on a plan to end reckless driving -- something they're calling an "epidemic." The press conference outlined multiple steps being pursued to combat reckless driving across the city.
"Milwaukee continues to experience a reckless driving crisis," said Alderman Bob Donovan. "We as a local government realize that it is incumbent on us to offer some solutions to this particular problem."
Donovan outlined his four-step plan to combat reckless driving in the City of Milwaukee. He introduced legislation allocating money to the Milwaukee Police Department for overtime on traffic enforcement and legislation restoring 30 police officer positions designed for traffic enforcement.
"This community is better than that, and we have to have all hands on deck sending the message that we need to end this insane driving," said Mayor Tom Barrett. "This insane driving has to stop."
On Friday, Oct. 25, all Council members sent a signed letter to Governor Tony Evers, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, state Assembly and Senate Leaders and members of the Milwaukee state delegation requesting immediate state resources to help combat reckless driving in the city. Barrett noted that the City of Milwaukee's budget is approximately $1.5 billion, and the Milwaukee Police Department budget is approximately $300 million.
"This community needs to ask itself -- is it unreasonable that we spend one-fifth of our budget on our safety?" said Barrett.
Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton addressed the issue with tears in his eyes, pleading for Milwaukee residents to make a change in their driving habits.
"We have a community out here that's suffering," said Hamilton. "We have children that are dying because of this reckless behavior in this damn city, and we've reached a point where having these types of press conferences is growing numb on the conscience of the community... It's becoming more difficult to look people in their faces and say that everything that can be done is being done when you can't even guarantee that little children can walk home from playing in the park. They're not even safe in their own homes."
Hamilton stressed that the entire Milwaukee community needs to combat the issue together.
"There are people out there who know their behavior is reckless. They know that they're putting people in danger with the decision making that they're choosing to do, and yet we find ourselves castrated, impotent in our ability to be able to curb that behavior... The community is saying they're fed up with this behavior."
City officials all agree enough is enough. It's time for strict enforcement with all hands on deck. Officials also hope to fund an expansion of Take It EZ Milwaukee, an anti-reckless driving pilot program.