Milwaukee reckless driving billboard campaign, vehicle thefts up 200%

The Milwaukee Police Department has launched the next phase in tackling reckless driving; a new messaging campaign.

Messages will be seen on billboards like one near 7th and Garfield. We’re told there will be a rotation between eight locations throughout the city in an effort to reach and discourage reckless drivers.

"This is, without a doubt, one of the most serious issues the city of Milwaukee faces," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

City leaders and members of the Milwaukee Police Department gathered Monday, June 14 to talk about the ongoing problem.

"Reckless driving and stolen vehicles," said Barrett.

Acting Chief Jeffrey Norman launched the Traffic Safety Unit in February. The TSU has issued just over 9,000 citations so far. Data shows most drivers ticketed for speeding were traveling at anywhere between 15 to 24 miles over the speed limit. 

A billboard and messaging campaign was unveiled Monday; the next phase in tackling the problem.

"These billboards contain a message on reckless driving and how to report reckless driving to the TSU," said Norman.

MPD Traffic Safety Unit

With reckless driving often comes the issue of stolen vehicles. According to MPD crime data, there have been over 4,200 vehicle thefts so far in 2021. That is almost as many vehicles stolen during the entirety of 2020.

"We’ve seen almost a 200% increase in stolen cars," said Alderman Michael Murphy. "That means 25 cars a day are being stolen."

He said the range in age of the thieves is also concerning.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Get breaking news alerts in the FOX6 News app for iOS or Android

Reckless driving billboard campaign

"It is not uncommon to see young kids between the ages of 12 to 14 being in stolen vehicles not once, not twice, but four separate times," he said.

He said he feels more needs to be done at the state level.

"I call on the Department of Justice corrections officers, the state of Wisconsin and our district attorney to try to make a difference and change these young lives and making them understand there are consequences to their behavior," said Murphy.

Milwaukee police are also passing out steering wheel locks on a first-come, first-served basis. They were purchased through the monetary donations of local groups and businesses and are being distributed through all MPD district stations. People who need one are asked to contact their district station.