'The penalties aren't weak:' City leaders, police brainstorm solutions with hit-and-runs at 5-year high

Milwaukee Common Council's Public Safety and Health Committee

MILWAUKEE -- City of Milwaukee leaders on Thursday, April 26 met to discuss how to stop a disturbing trend. New numbers show hit-and-run crashes are on the rise -- while death, serious injury and damage to property are also at an all-time high.

Members of the Milwaukee Common Council's Public Safety and Health Committee discussed the new report on Thursday morning.

"With one in four crashes being a hit-and-run, that doesn't speak well to what's going on here," said Alderman Terry Witkowski.

Over the past five years, the number of hit-and-run crashes in Milwaukee has risen to nearly 5,000 in 2017, up from 3,000 in 2013. In the first four months of 2018, there have already been more than 1,000 hit-and-run crashes. Numbers for this year are predicted to surpass those before.

"Fatalities in double-digit numbers. This has not happened before," said Witkowski.

When it comes to property damage, the numbers have jumped from just under 2,600 in 2013 to nearly 4,000 in 2017.

Alderman Terry Witkowski

"It's an issue in our city. We've seen the increase over the years and it's something we believe is not acceptable," said Assistant Chief Michael Brunson.

"What can we do about this problem?" said Alderman Witkowski.

Committee members talked about increasing the penalties for hit-and-run crashes (Wisconsin's hit-and-run penalty laws are far stricter than those in Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa), and said the first step in solving this problem is informing the public there is one.

"It is enforcement, education and engineering working together that solve traffic problems like this," said Alderman Witkowski.

Police are pushing to identify carjackers, and go after them full force.

"A motorcycle officer can handle an accident a third of the time and do it good," said Chief Alfonso Morales.

Police said the public's help is needed.

"We depend on the public to provide information, to tell us what they saw. Very helpful in many of our investigations," said Brunson.

Hit-And-Run Rollover Crash near Capitol and Sherman

28th and Rogers hit-and-run

MPD is expected to release a new, detailed traffic plan on Monday, and city leaders said they hope that will help in tackling this issue.