Milwaukee files civil suit against 'egregious reckless driver' that racked up 44 violations in past 5 years

NOW: Milwaukee files civil suit against ’egregious reckless driver’ that racked up 44 violations in past 5 years

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A reckless driver in Milwaukee has racked up 44 citations in the past five years.

Now the city is filing a civil suit against him at the request of the Milwaukee Police Department. The legal strategy is one of the prongs in the city's latest efforts to combat reckless driving.

There is currently a warrant out for Anthony Szablewski's arrest. Fourteen of his citations have come just this year alone.

A community activist says the 44 overall citations prove police officers are catching offenders. Now he says state lawmakers must revise the traffic code to keep those drivers off the streets.

Fifty-three-year-old Szablewski could have his vehicle seized or even serve jail time after the city filed civil suit against the man they call an "egregious reckless driver".

Szablewski's list of offenses since 2017 is extensive, and includes eight citations for speeding, 14 for operating after suspension, two red light violations, a reckless driving violation, one for unsafe passing on the right, and one for operating while under the influence.

The lawsuit serves as a new warning from the city as it tries to crack down on a chronic problem.

Jordan Morales is the vice president of the Sherman Park Neighborhood Association. He said, "I'm very happy to see them getting on board with this important tool the police now have."

Morales has been battling reckless driving for years from the ground level in Sherman Park, but it's been slow-going. He said, "Anecdotally I'll say I have not noticed a big change in reckless driving."

So far in 2022 there have been 27 crash fatalities.

But 190 citations have been issued this year for reckless driving, and more than 5,700 speeding tickets have been issued. So officers are catching offenders.

Morales said, "You don't get 44 traffic tickets if cops aren't doing traffic enforcement."

But the system doesn't keep them off the road.

Milwaukee deemed Szablewski's reckless driving a "public nuisance." It may sound tame, but the city is limited in what it can legally do.

In May, MPD was allowed to start towing unregistered vehicles that were driving recklessly, and this new civil litigation is now another tool.

But there's a third prong to the approach Morales says needs to happen: "It would be nice if the state would allow us, though, to tow and have harsher penalties for the drivers that are wreaking all this havoc on the streets. Now we need the state to cover our rear here and support us with new state statutes that allow for harsher penalties."

Morales and others say state lawmakers need to update traffic codes to allow cities to take stronger action.

Until then, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said the lawsuits mean chronic reckless drivers "will face consequences far beyond a slap on the wrist."

MPD and the city attorney were unavailable for interviews Monday, but in a statement MPD said there are 20 more offenders that have racked up more than 10 violations each in the past five years.

The department is working to let them know they also may face a lawsuit.

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Read the lawsuit below: 

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