A call to withhold state funding from Milwaukee until it deals with problems with crime is being met with some skepticism from Governor Scott Walker.
Republican state Representative Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) this week argued in a press release that violent crime in Milwaukee is starting to spill out into the suburbs. “Last week homeowners in Washington County were held hostage in their homes by the actions of 5 young criminals from Milwaukee,” she wrote. “All night long the Milwaukee Police, SWAT teams and law enforcement from Washington County combed the darkness for 5 youths with guns. Families were forced to unlock their gun cabinets and instruct their loved ones to shoot to kill.”
Brandjten accused Mayor Tom Barrett of failing to do enough to address the city’s problems, and said she would “openly advocating for funding cuts to Milwaukee unless steps are taken to dramatically cut crime. I will no longer sit by while you destroy Milwaukee and its flourishing suburbs. I cannot justify financing your failed policies in Milwaukee until you take public safety seriously.”
Asked about Brandtjen’s statements on Tuesday, Walker seemed to question the logic of that threat. “I doubt they’d say combatting crime by taking money away is necessarily the answer,” the governor said.
Walker said the state has worked with Milwaukee in the past to provide funding for efforts to help fight criminal activity, such as a “shot spotter” system that helps police locate and respond to gun shots. The governor said there are no easy answers though. “The problems they face are a series of issues from public safety to law enforcement levels, but also the criminal justice system, the family structure…there’s all sorts of things and it’s going to take a whole lot of people working together.”
The state has actually directed more funding to Milwaukee for crime fighting efforts, including $175,000 in early 2014 to fund technology that helps police pinpoint the location of gun shots. Walker said he thinks there are other ways the state can help going forward.
Brandtjen’s comments also criticism from Democrats. State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) accused her of using dangerous rhetoric. “It’s sheltered logic to lay this entire problem at the foot of one city. Every single vote we take as legislators impacts every community, not just one,” Taylor said in a statement.