MILWAUKEE — New Milwaukee police data shows 57 drivers have had their unregistered vehicles towed for driving recklessly since the department implemented the policy change on May 1.
A trip to the tow lot and the expenses that come with it serve as a consequence to combat reckless driving in Milwaukee. Noah Portman wasn’t cited for reckless driving, but he knows the process of retrieving a towed vehicle can be a major inconvenience.
“Just the hassle of like getting here, just the times that they’re open, it’s usually during like what would be normal working hours, and just the price of towing could definitely deter some people,” Portman said.
The deterrent is only applicable to reckless drivers caught in unregistered vehicles. Wisconsin law allows law enforcement agencies to tow cars that aren’t properly registered.
“The big trend is the 25 miles over the speed limit,” said Captain Jeffrey Sunn.
Captain Sunn says 47 drivers had their vehicle towed for speeding 25 miles per hour over the limit, 10 for endangering safety by driving recklessly, followed by three for racing and zero for fleeing an officer, which is the last of four categories to trigger a tow under the new policy. Captain Sunn says some drivers were given multiple reckless driving citations.
“It’s not only the high speeds, it’s also the erratic behavior where you are causing or endangering safety of other motorists on the highway,” he said.
The expenses can add up. Aside from the traffic citations, each tow costs at least $105 and $20 each day the car is left at Milwaukee’s tow lot. The owner has to get their vehicle registered before driving it off the lot at a cost of $115 in Milwaukee County.
“The whole point of a citation is to curb behavior but the individuals who are having their vehicles towed underneath this policy, their behavior is so egregious and so reckless that we have no other option but to tow their vehicle for the safety of the community,” Captain Sunn said.
Jordan Morales with the Sherman Park Community Association is so fed up with reckless driving in his neighborhood that he asked Milwaukee police to provide the group with regular updates on how they’re addressing it.
“There has to be a consequence to that type of what I call homicidal behavior,” the said.
While Morales says he was initially a critic of the reckless driving tow policy for being too lenient, he’s grown to appreciate that there’s now an extra penalty.
“I mean, has it stopped reckless driving in the city of Milwaukee? No. Has it made an impact? Remains to be seen. But in the interest of just justice, I think it’s been effective,” he said. “You’ve got to have some sort of significant penalty for folks who are putting people’s lives at risk.”
The Milwaukee Police Department says a vast majority of the tows within this policy were made by the Traffic Safety Unit, a group of 18 officers who focus on traffic enforcement. If you see reckless driving activity and would like to report it, all you have to do is take down a vehicle description, license plate and fill out a form on MPDTSU.org.