“I don’t mind getting arrested in South Milwaukee because it’s so cheap.”
Our police department has heard that troubling statement more than once over the years. They’ll hear it less going forward, with action the city council took on Tuesday.
Officially, the council voted to amend the South Milwaukee Municipal Court deposit schedule. Put more simply, they voted to increase the amount of money lawbreakers may have to pay for their crimes, if convicted.
I strongly support these efforts. They are long overdue.
Dozens of deposit amounts have been amended. They include the amount for disorderly conduct, which moves from $187 to $439. Resisting/obstructing an officer goes from $376 to $565. First offense retail theft is now $376, from $187. Second offense is $565. Possession of marijuana goes from $313 to $439, and possession of drug paraphernalia goes from $187 to $376. Having liquor in a park goes from $187 to $376, and a park closing violation goes from $92.50 to $187. The deposit for carrying a concealed weapon goes from $313 to $533.50.
These and other changes bring us much more in line with other local communities. (We studied Oak Creek, Cudahy, Franklin, West Allis, Greenfield and others for comparisons.)
To be clear, those arrested for the municipal ordinance violations may never pay the full deposit amount. In fact, if they show up for municipal court, they may be able to, and often can, get those costs reduced as part of a plea deal. But, by increasing the starting point, our city attorney has more flexibility in potentially adjusting those amounts to get to a point where the punishment better fits the crime.
Our hope is word spreads and that these new, higher deposit requirements act as a deterrent. And, for our officers, it will alleviate frustration they’ve rightfully been feeling that their arrests are sometimes not leading to appropriate consequences.
Thanks to our new city attorney, Chris Smith, and Chief Ann Wellens for their persistence in getting this done — and to Municipal Judge Bill Fenger for signing off on the changes.
We have spent more than a decade trying to fix this. Now, we have. Potential lawbreakers, take notice.