Republicans must walk the walk on public safety

By Urban Media

Public safety and gun violence are growing concerns for Wisconsin, particularly in the economic hub of Milwaukee. Milwaukee has one of the highest crime rates in the nation, coming in at #10 on Forbes’ “Most Dangerous Cities” list last year.

This violence is not only a tragedy—it’s a threat to upward mobility for many Milwaukee residents.

Neighborhoods with especially high crime rates see their housing values, quality of schools, and economic opportunities plummet in the face of rampant violence.

Our public safety officials and our government leaders should be working together to eliminate this growing problem, but Scott Walker has disappointed when it comes to his position on the safety of Wisconsin communities.

His empty rhetoric combined with his efforts to make it easier for Wisconsin residents to obtain guns are in direct opposition to his purported public safety agenda.

In the summer of 2011, Governor Walker signed a concealed-carry bill into law with serious issues that put communities at risk. Less than a year later, the Milwaukee Police Department had to ask state legislators and gun rights activists to back three amendments to the concealed-carry law to address the problems with the legislation.

The proposed changes would have prevented repeat criminals from obtaining concealed carry permits and toughened punishments for those who do—part of the problem with concealed-carry is that offenders plead down their sentences until they become misdemeanors, which means they can still obtain a concealed carry permit despite their criminal history.

How did Walker and Republicans respond to this request from law enforcement in Milwaukee? With silence and inaction.

Instead, in 2013, Wisconsin Republicans—led by Governor Walker—cut over $445,000 from Milwaukee’s public safety budget.

That money was to be used to expand ShotSpotter, a system with a proven track record of success that uses sensors to identify and pinpoint gunfire, allowing public safety officials and medical professionals to respond more quickly to shootings.

Walker’s budget cut went against the advice of the Milwaukee Police Department, who had high hopes for the program.

Republicans claimed they were not familiar enough with the technology to allow expansion of the program, despite the proven track record ShotSpotter already had at the time of the cuts.

The massive cut to ShotSpotter exposes Walkers latest attempt to spin his commitment to public safety.

Claiming credit for restoring $175,000 to the ShotSpotter program after cutting it by $445,000 is something only a career politician like Walker would dream up.

Gun violence continues to plague the streets of Milwaukee with almost 8,000 violent crimes annually.

The victims of these crimes are often youth with little or no connection to the perpetrator.

Working to get illegal guns off the streets and ShotSpotter technology onto them should be the priority of our state legislatures, not stripping budgets and lip-service about safety from Governor Walker.

Democratic candidate for Governor Mary Burke on the other hand has proven her dedication to the issue and acknowledges that there is no single answer to the problem.

Burke recognizes that the solution includes a commitment both to ensuring law enforcement has the resources it needs and to education.

Preventing crime is about both limiting access to weapons, and providing education and opportunity to young people so they make smart decisions early in life.

Public safety should be a top priority for Walker and Republicans; we can no longer accept the mediocrity of empty rhetoric and conflicting actions.

It’s time for new leadership that has a concrete plan on how to keep Wisconsin communities safe and stable.