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Police to seek charges against driver after 4-year-old left in tow lot

Posted: 4:40 PM, Nov 13, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-13 19:20:55-05

A four-year-old girl was left alone inside a minivan overnight in a Milwaukee tow lot, Public Works Commissioner nominee Jeff Polenske said Tuesday at a news conference. 

Late Monday night, an impaired female driver was pulled over and arrested for an OWI near N. 39th Street and W Forest Home Avenue, where the vehicle was towed. Officers removed a 10-month-old child from the vehicle, but neglected to remove a 4-year-old girl from the backseat. 

In the Milwaukee Police Department Code of Conduct in regard to vehicle searches, “Vehicles shall be thoroughly searched for items of apparent value.”

The girl spent 8 hours in the van until a police officer on duty at the tow lot heard her crying for help. Just the thought brings Casie Wangwa to tears. 

“That’s a four-year-old that could have died in this cold weather,” she said.  

The temperature dipped down to 19 degrees at one point Tuesday morning. 

“Apparently the girl was very upset and crying, something that none of us would like to have happen to any of our children,” Polenske said.  

A public works employee also searched the vehicle once it arrived at the tow lot. Polenske said the employee walked around the van and used a flashlight to look inside, but never entered the vehicle. 

“We want to make sure it never happens again. If there’s something more that we can be doing, more thorough exam of that vehicle, we will be doing that in the future,” he said. 

Wangwa believes the solution is simple. 

“They should go inside the vehicle at all times after they arrest someone,” she said. 

While DPW owns their mistake, MPD has yet to do the same. 

“The Milwaukee Police Department is grateful that the child was located unharmed. MPD is currently seeking criminal charges against the driver who was arrested for Operating While Intoxicated. We will provide additional information in the upcoming days regarding this investigation,” Milwaukee police said in a statement.