Reckless driving causes and potential solutions explored at community townhall

NOW: Reckless driving causes and potential solutions explored at community townhall

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Several community stakeholders gathered Wednesday night to address the rash of reckless driving plaguing city streets. The conversation comes one day after we brought you new video of a reckless driver spinning around a police cruiser.

This conversation was personal for a woman whose son was killed by a reckless driver in August at the corner of 60th and Hampton, but she's not alone. 78% of people surveyed by MPD say reckless driving is the most serious issue in the city. Leaders say it's a pandemic that's happening everywhere.

Julie Wellinger's 22-year old son Jerrold and his friend Devante Gaines were killed August 7 when they were hit by a car that was street racing. AT the townhall Wednesday, she said, "The car that hit my son's car was traveling 102mph. My son and his friend were killed on impact."

She says she's been working ever since to mitigate reckless driving in Milwaukee. "But it can't just be me. We all have to come together as a community."

About 50 people gathered at Mt. Lebanon Church for a conversation with the interim police chief, common council president, and other city leaders.

Acting Chief Jeffrey Norman said, "It's us! We have to talk to each other. We have to take this seriously. Slow down! This is the middle of the day. We need to be accountable for one another."

MPD's Traffic Safety Unit has written more than 1700 tickets since it was created in February of 2020, and the Department of Public Works is working to narrow lanes and bump out curbs to slow drivers down.

But many of the panelists say the issue has to do with human behavior. Joe’Mar Hooper is the Executive Director of Safe & Sound. He said, "We're really trying to get to folks early and often to say this is not the way to go, because there are consequences."

Common Council President Cavalier Johnson says aldermen know there's a serious problem and they hear about it on a regular basis. "I see my own constituents who are up at night, every night, because they’re concerned about instances of reckless driving."

But there is frustration with a lack of legal consequences. One woman has put boulders around her house because she can't keep her fence up. She says cars have crashed into her house five times. She told the panel, "I cut my grass and I do this when walk out by Capitol Drive. I look. Because I'm afraid they're going to run me over."

And Janice Hampton is also concerned about reckless driving. She said, "It's really hard to go out every day thinking you could be next. You could be the one that gets killed."

One of the issues is attrition within the police department. Common Council President Johnson says Thursday morning the Council's Finance and Personnel Committee will hear a budget amendment that would add 195 officers to the force and get the department closer to full strength.

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