Common Council committee discusses legal action against Hyundai and Kia over thefts

NOW: Common Council committee discusses legal action against Hyundai and Kia over thefts

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Twenty-eight cars stolen a day. That statistic was at the center of the issue Milwaukee Common Council's Judiciary and Legislation Committee took up again Monday -- possible legal actions regarding the rampant theft of Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

This comes after a private lawsuit was launched regarding the issue.

"We're forced to rely on anecdotes and rumors coming out of the rank and file, that portray to us that they're one big revolving door. People are arrested, they go in the front door and right out the back door, and within 24 hours they're out stealing another car," said 4th District Alderman Robert Bauman.

He said it seemed like it was hard to nail down the facts in regards to Kia and Hyundai theft during testimony from the City Attorney's Office Monday.

Tenth District Alderman Michael Murphy said the issue is more than just rumor.

"Very few cases are eventually prosecuted from stolen vehicles," said Ald. Murphy.

He said 50% of these offenders are under the age of 16.

Ald. Murphy suggested looking into inviting the head of children's court, Judge Laura Crivello, as well as the district attorney, to speak on what issues they face addressing the situation.

One of those issues Ald. Murphy identified was the fact that these are kids, and oftentimes not the driver.

"Individuals who are caught in the car, that are not driving the vehicle, generally are released within a few hours to their guardian," said Ald. Murphy.

He said sometimes they're caught four, even five times.

To change this, Ald. Murphy thinks some sort of detention center for these youth could be established using ARPA funds, something tried in Portland.

"Instead of just releasing them immediately, they would be referred to this location and then proper social services would intervene to see why this individual is being involved," said Ald. Murphy.

Thirteenth District Alderman Sean Siker said we need to figure out if more outreach is needed or if there really are just no consequences.

"If that's the case, that seems to be the obvious thing staring me in the face," said Ald. Spiker.

The council asked the city attorney if other cities have faced similar struggles, and if so, if they took legal action against Hyundai and Kia.

"I'm wondering if other municipalities had perused as municipalities, as opposed to private entities, any litigation," said Ald. Spiker.

While city attorneys said Denver has seen similar issues, though not on the level of what's happening here in Milwaukee, they hadn't taken legal action against Hyundai or Kia.

City Attorney's Office officials said the best possibility of perusing a cause of action is based on public nuisance laws.

That's when the council went into private session to further discuss the matter, although they did make it clear that they aren't taking any legal action at this time.

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