MILWAUKEE COUNTY TRANSIT SAFETY

Milwaukee (December 30, 2011) – Deanna Alexander, Candidate for Milwaukee County Supervisor – 18th District, calls for an immediate plan of action for transit security. “I am glad to hear that our Mayor, County Executive, Police Chief, and Sheriff are all in agreement that there is a problem that needs to be addressed,” Alexander said, “but we must now take action and we need a plan to move forward.”

The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) was awarded recognition as the best transit system in the country just over a decade ago, but today’s headlines are about attacks, assaults, and resulting outcries for a sense of safety.

“Having a good transit security system in place not only ensures safety of the rider and driver, but it protects taxpayers’ investment in our community. Surely, as transit crime increases, overall ridership goes down and economic activity is hindered.” said Alexander.

“MCTS promotes a fun fact that every dollar invested into it returns nearly five dollars of economic benefits in the community. Unfortunately, the flip-side of that coin is likely to be that every dollar further pulled from transit takes five dollars of economic benefits with it,” said Alexander.

MCTS has fallen sharply in the national arena; a shining star—the Twin Cities’ Metro Transit—is tied for first place in the nation as the safest public transportation system. “We need to look at this as a case study. What are they doing that we aren’t?” asked Alexander. According to the Metro Transit Police Chief, success has rested on reducing transit crime using “partnerships, technology, enforcement, and prosecution.” The fruit of that strategy was a 22% drop in transit crime in just one year.

Citizens want to see results. “We must take action now to make our transit safety a priority, and it must be done in a way that honors the concerns of multiple stakeholders while enhancing cooperation amongst our leaders,” said Alexander.

Alexander’s plan for putting best practices to good use here in Milwaukee:

  • A full transit policing authority is needed but will take time to effectively develop and implement. Immediately create an MCTS position responsible for coordinating bus security between multiple law enforcement agencies and the currently contracted security company, G4S Wackenhut, and for reporting progress and setbacks to the public, while a full transit security system is developed. When deployed, an official transit security team could entail contracts between multiple public safety units so that certain individuals are specially trained for transit security, the “color of the uniform” of first responders is irrelevant, and response times are kept low.
  • Invite those training to work in law enforcement to serve in an internship-style capacity to gain hands-on experience in responding to quality-of-life concerns in cooperation with professional law enforcement officers. This will build a sense of upward mobility for those entering the workforce while relieving some of the tension on our stretched law enforcement personnel.
  • Seek out a community organization interested in cooperating with MCTS and law enforcement to help in fostering a welcoming ride that is free from the stigma of being dangerous. By placing volunteers on select routes with a goal of greeting and conversing with riders and even making referrals to connect those in need with community services, we can condition the environment to become one of trust, respect, and acceptable behavior.
  • The new busses being ordered will have driver shields; any existing buses not slated for replacement must have this feature retrofit. MCTS must also continue to train drivers in self-defense and offer them the option to carry a non-lethal defense tool such as pepper spray, if they are not already doing so.
  • Begin a transit offender web page that publicizes the photograph and offense of lawbreakers on the loose and the penalties imposed on those caught, letting the public know that violence, aggression, and lawlessness will not be tolerated on our busses.

“This plan will start us on the right path to being proactive in responding to social disorder and promoting community policing as a foundation for strategy that will turn the bus system around,” said Alexander.

Safety is not Alexander’s only concern. One of her top priorities is a fiscal renovation of our ailing transit situation with long-term respect for the taxpayer. “With the one-two punch of abandoning the street car plan and designating its funding for the busses, paired with the development of a dedicated funding source for busses—and only busses, we can shake our disgrace, protect this community asset, and get back to being number one in the nation,” Alexander said.

Alexander’s professional background is in accounting and auditing for small businesses, non-profit organizations, and government and she has studied Law & Public Policy at the master’s level. She has also served in the Wisconsin Army National Guard and is a current Milwaukee County employee. Philip and Deanna Alexander are in their 30’s, own their Milwaukee home, and have two daughters. The Alexander Campaign website is now available at www.DeannaAlexander.com