NewsProject: Drive Safer


Newly elected sheriff details Milwaukee County's reckless driving hotspots and her enforcement strategy

Just two weeks since taking over the job after former Sheriff Lucas suddenly resigned, Sheriff Ball says she’s already implemented a strategy to prevent reckless driving where incidents occur most.
MKE Co. Sheriff Denita Ball .jpeg
Posted at 4:49 PM, Nov 09, 2022

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee County has officially elected Denita Ball as its new sheriff.

Sheriff Ball made a promise during her campaign to take a more ‘hands-on’ approach to tackle some of the county’s biggest problems facing law enforcement and the broader community. She considers reckless driving an enormous one.

"In my experience, the reckless driving has gotten a lot worse,” she said.

The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office patrols nearly 150 highways and county roads along with the Milwaukee County Park System. Sheriff Ball says her agency is being inundated with reckless driving complaints, requiring a more proactive response.

Sheriff Ball says the hot spots on the expressways tend to be in the most congested areas such as the Marquette and Zoo interchanges and many of the construction zones.

“It could be tailgating, it could be excessive speed, it could be aggressive driving, road rage, racing so any driving that affects or endangers the public,” she said.

But it isn’t just happening on the county’s busiest roads. Last week, police say three people were struck by reckless drivers at Humboldt Park. This Tuesday, Sheriff Ball says deputies responded to another incident at Washington Park after drivers tore up a soccer field.

"We ended up making three arrests and one of the vehicles was stolen,” she said. “There are still two people outstanding, but that's just an immediate impact that we have seen reckless driving have on our community."

Sheriff’s office data shows a significant surge in reckless driving complaints over the years, from 856 in 2020 to 1,125 in 2021. So far in 2022, deputies have responded to 875 complaints.

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Sheriff Ball says the most alarming trend is how often reckless driving escalates to gunfire.

"People do not want to pack their patience and so as a result, and you have more people who are carrying guns, and so instead of 'Oh I apologize, I didn't mean to cut you off’, then that person is now taking out a gun,” she said.

Just two weeks since taking over the job after former Sheriff Earnell Lucas suddenly resigned, Sheriff Ball says she’s already implemented her strategy to prevent reckless driving where incidents occur the most. She calls it a high-visibility approach that uses evidence and data to place deputies in the right spots.

"We're using our analytics division to determine where reckless driving is most likely to occur, and then what we are doing is using our saturation patrols to be in those areas so that we can have a real-time effect on reckless driving,” she said.

That means increased patrols in the parks, on the freeways and county roads where deputies can be found in plain sight.

"Our job is never-ending and so we will continue to focus on it because we want to make sure that those who drive our roadways or in our parks are safe,” she said.

Sheriff Ball says 60 of the office’s 251 deputies are currently assigned to traffic enforcement due to staffing shortages. She said during her campaign that she plans to ask the county board to offer additional hiring and retention bonuses to bolster the force.

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