Area Residents Warned About Carjacking Gang on East Side


UPDATE 12/14/15: The Journal Sentinel ran this article today about recent recent arrests, carjackings and police activities.


UPDATE 12/11/15:

  • We received this information from Ald. Nik Kovac today: “Earlier this week a car that had been stolen two weeks ago on the 2200 block of Webster was recovered by police and two arrests were made. Both were charged with the armed robbery of the vehicle. There are also charges in the armed robbery car theft from this weekend on the 2500 block of Prospect. The police investigation and response will continue.”
  • Another WISN-TV Channel 12 story about the carjackings aired last night. The story included new information from the Milwaukee Police Department and an interview with a victim.


UPDATE 12/9/15: WISN-TV Channel 12 ran this story last night about the carjackings and credited our website with helping inform neighbors about crime in the area.

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UPDATE 12/7/15: We received the following new information from Ald. Nik Kovac today:

“There were 20 carjackings in District 1 year to date, but seven were in November alone. County wide (including suburbs) carjackings are up. MPD is working closely with UWMPD and suburban PDs to arrest ringleaders. Have narrowed suspect pool from 270 to 20 in last few weeks. The chief has assigned a 90 day task force to East Side to catch these suspects and stop future offenses. Hopefully we’ll have good news to share soon. Neighbors asked for follow up meeting after the holidays and we will schedule that in early 2016.”



 Area residents learned at a Dec. 2 Town Hall Meeting about a carjacking gang operating on the East Side, including in the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood, and nearby suburbs.

Ald. Nik Kovac this week hosted the Town Hall meeting, which focused on crime issues in our neighborhood. Here is the summary a resident sent in an email circulated to neighbors:

“I attended the Town Hall Meeting at the Library tonight. Captain Eric Moore, Alderman Nik Kovac, the Chief of the UWM campus police, and one of the UWM Deans addressed the audience and answered questions. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss crime trends, nuisance reports, and occupancy rates for District One and UWM neighborhoods. Clearly, foremost on everyone’s minds is the recent crime issue; a topic that consumed nearly all of the two-hour meeting.

Here is a relatively brief description of what was discussed in case you’re interested.

Captain Eric Moore is our new Captain for District One. He opened the meeting by explaining the rise in carjacking and armed robberies is not only a Milwaukee issue, but a countywide and nationwide trend. In District One there have been 20 car hackings this year (this is the lowest for all the districts in Milwaukee but still very high for our District). Seven of those carjackings occurred in the Water Tower and Murray Hill neighborhoods in November alone. Evidently, there was a major surge of carjackings in our neighborhood last month.

Residents of District One voiced their concerns and a task force was put in place as of November 9th. The task force consists of 8-9 additional officers pulled from other districts. This is only a 90-day deployment. I requested that we meet again after the 90 days to reassess the situation and Alderman Kovac and Capt. Moore seemed agreeable to that idea.

Here are the particulars of the carjacking ring in our area. The detectives believe there are 277 offenders involved in the operation. They say the task force has narrowed this down to 20 core leaders and are focusing their attention on apprehending those individuals whom they believe influence the rest of the group. The “unique attraction” to our neighborhood according to Capt. Moore is that we are “compliant,” reasonable, and “genteel” victims. According to Capt. Moore, a Wauwatosa detective told him that one of the carjackers the Wauwatosa police had in custody told him he chose our neighborhood because “we won’t shoot at him.” Nik Kovac quickly interjected that this story was not meant to imply that we all need to get CCW permits.

Capt. Moore said the carjackings happen at any time of day. The carjackers are usually operating in tandem; meaning there are two cars working together to steal more cars. The age of the carjackers range from 11 (yes, 11!) to 19. They are almost exclusively juveniles. They wear dark clothing with hoodies. They target females, often when the victims are looking at their cell phones or are distracted in some way. The carjacking is often their “gateway crime” to armed robbery.

The carjackers are difficult to catch for numerous reasons. For one, victims are not able to identify the carjackers because they’re in shock. The perpetrators can readily escape because they know the police cannot chase them at high speeds. Given that car theft is not considered a violent crime, the MPD cannot engage in a high speed chase putting innocent bystanders at great risk of death or bodily harm. The carjackers use the cars for a joy ride and then sell the cars on the street for use in other crimes such as mobile drug dealing. They get the windows tinted immediately (which only takes about 15 minutes) and temporary license plates are put on the cars. By the time the cars are located, they are totaled and other criminals have used the cars making it difficult to trace back to the original carjacker. The carjackers also want your smart phones to sell on the street. The Captain said it is helpful to the police if you know your smart phone user name and password. He also said to stay vigilant when pulling into your driveway and, if possible, arrange for someone at home to greet you at the garage and turn on lights when you approach. Be especially cautious and aware if parking in alleys.

Alderman Nik Kovac suggested setting up neighborhood email lists to keep neighbors apprised of any suspicious activities/persons or anything else related to the local crime issues we’re currently experiencing. He also mentioned that he has helped several blocks set up a block watch and that if we wanted anything like that he could assist us. Liaison Officer Alba will try to increase the descriptive narrative of the crime reports (as of now it only provides a broad crime category, the location and time; whereas Whitefish Bay and Shorewood police reports include narrative details related to the nature of the crime and the perpetrator(s)).

There were a lot of questions from the audience; some were quite heated. Most concerning was a resident who claimed that he called 911 during a home burglary last week and 45 minutes elapsed before an officer arrived at his home. Capt. Moore acknowledged Milwaukee’s problem with response times. (I suspected it was bad, but 45 minutes for a live break-in was a bit of a shock.) Overall, many residents were quite anxious to find solutions. Capt. Moore assured the group that our concerns are being given great weight by the Chief and he has been instructed to “fix the problem.” It was also evident that Captain Moore and one of his detectives (a woman whose name I didn’t catch) feel that it is incumbent upon us to assist in providing protection in our community by reporting suspicious persons and generally being more aware of our surroundings.

Hope this is slightly more helpful than discouraging.

I must admit I left the meeting with more questions than answers but I’m glad I went and I look forward to hearing more from the new Captain and Alderman Kovac. Feel free to pass this on to anyone else who might find it useful.”

Another HWTN resident sent this in an email to many neighbors after reading the above report:

“Coincidentally, I was just at a meeting today with a woman whose 16 year old daughter was among those car jacked. Poor kid had just gotten her Drivers License that week. They live in Mequon and were having dinner at Pizza Man. She drove down to the East Side to meet her parents for dinner and after parking the car was held face down in the middle of the street at gunpoint by 3 young men who then stole the car and her cell phone. She was luckily not physically hurt but of course the whole thing was a major ordeal. The car was not recovered. 

Very shocking to hear that it can take 45 minutes for police to respond to a call!”

This information parallels news stories about carjackings on the East Side near Oakland Avenue and near Downer Avenue, in Shorewood and in Whitefish Bay.

Bottom line — be aware of your surroundings, keep in touch with neighbors about problems and don’t hesitate to contact the police if you see suspicious behaviors.

HWTN, Murray Hill Opposing Proposed Skywalk Over Prospect Avenue

Historic Water Tower Neighborhood and the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association have passed resolutions opposed to Columbia St. Mary’s plan to build a skywalk over N. Prospect Avenue just south of the Maryland Avenue Montessori School.

Columbia St. Mary’s has shown its plans, not yet approved by its board, to representatives of the two groups, the E. North Avenue Business Improvement District and Ald. Nik Kovac. recently wrote a great story summarizing the proposal and neighborhood concerns.

In November, HWTN’s board passed a resolution opposing the skywalk and listing several concerns, including visual blight, inappropriateness in a residential neighborhood, reduced neighborhood vibrancy by taking pedestrians off the street, decreased pedestrian and auto safety, precedent for future skywalks and lack of demonstrated need.

“Like a lot of the neighbors, my opinion is still forming. The architect, Jim Shields (of HGA), made some changes in response to neighbor concerns which improved design. But many people object on the grounds that skywalks pull pedestrians off the street, and pedestrians on sidewalks are good for commercial corridors.” – Ald. Nik Kovac in article

Below is a view from North Avenue looking north and a rough sketch showing where the skywalk would connect over the street between the doctors’ offices above Whole Foods and the hospital.

“It’s possible that the supports for such a skywalk could even further diminish visibility for pedestrians and drivers at an already challenging spot.” – Author and Maryland Montessori parent Bobby Tanzilo in OnMilwaukee article




Lake Park, Downer Avenue the focus of next HWTN meeting

Lake Park Friends President Alice Wilson will share Lake Park’s origins and history, its status as a national historic landmark and the group’s 2015 initiatives at our next Historic Water Tower Neighborhood meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday March 4, 2015.

new-waterfall-stairsAlice will also discuss the Lake Park Youth Auxiliary launched last year and how young people are engaged in the care of the Park. And she’ll share details about the status of bridges and repair plans and answer other questions we might have.

Alice and her husband, Joe, have lived on the East Side since moving to Milwaukee in 1992. They live on the 2900 block of Summit Avenue with their three children. She graduated from Kenyon College with high honors in history. Most of her 30-year professional career has been advocating on behalf of nonprofit organizations, their missions, and the people they serve, as well as their funding sources. She has expertise in non-profit finance, accounting, endowments, and budget management.  

history4Alice’s volunteer community work includes serving on governing boards, creating strategic plans, and coordinating special events. Currently, she serves as president of the Board of Directors of Lake Park Friends, on the development committee of the Charles Allis and Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museums, as a Junior League Sustainer, and as a member of the Catholic East 2015 Gala Committee. Alice is also a HWTN member.

Also on our agenda is discussion of the foreclosure on Downer Avenue with Ald. Nik Kovac. Historic Water Tower Neighborhood and other East Side neighborhood organizations promoted a community meeting Feb. 4 at which city officials, including Ald Kovac, and the owner of foreclosed buildings on Downer Avenue, Joel Lee, discussed the state of this important commercial street in our area.

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Here is a link to our minutes from the meeting, and here is one to a Journal Sentinel article, “Foreclosures put Downer Ave. development in limbo,” about the event.

As always, our meetings take place in Lake Park’s Marcia Coles Community Room, beneath Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro. The meeting room’s entrance faces Lake Michigan. We begin at 7 p.m., but come a little early for cookies and coffee (courtesy of the Bistro).




Minutes of community meeting with city officials, Downer Avenue property owner

Historic Water Tower Neighborhood and other East Side neighborhood organizations promoted a community meeting Feb. 4 at which city officials, including Ald. Nik Kovac, and the owner of foreclosed buildings on Downer Avenue, Joel Lee, discussed the state of this important commercial street in our area.

Here is a link to our minutes from the meeting, and here is one to a Journal Sentinel article, “Foreclosures put Downer Ave. development in limbo,” about the discussion.

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HWTN Supports Additional Police Officers, Retaining Police Overtime

UPDATE 4:30 p.m. Nov. 7, 2014 :

The Common Council voted today to approve the mayor’s proposal for 12 new police officers in 2015 and to keep overtime at current levels, retaining the full-time equivalent of another 15 officers. Historic Water Tower Neighborhood voted earlier this week in favor of the new officers and maintaining current overtime funding, and against cutting both (see Nov. 6 post below). Here’s the mayor’s statement today after the vote:

Dear Resident:

Today, the Milwaukee Common Council passed the City of Milwaukee’s 2015 budget. I want to thank the Council for including the 12 additional police recruits. This means that in 2015, 85 officers will be ready for deployment. The Council also approved the full overtime amount I had submitted and which was requested by Chief Flynn.

I want to thank all of you who took an interest and the time to weigh-in on the public safety issues. Your voices came through and I really do appreciate how much you all care about our great City and our neighborhoods. Thank you.

As I said yesterday, budgets are about priorities and funding the services we can afford. On the way to striking that balance, there will be disagreements and honest differences of opinion. I believe that the budget that passed today, despite the bumps in the road, strikes the right balance.

I thank Council President Michael Murphy and Alderman Nik Kovac, Chair of the Finance and Personnel Committee, for their leadership, candor and ideas.

I want to acknowledge Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, Alderwoman Milele Coggs, Alderman Terry Witkowski and Alderman Joe Dudzik for their diligence and oversight as the budget was being reviewed and amended at the Finance Committee. It was at the Committee level that Compete Milwaukee, our transitional jobs program, children and family trauma specialists, Community Service Officers and additional nuisance property inspectors were fully vetted. These initiatives, along with our Strong Neighborhoods Program, will help strengthen and maintain our neighborhoods.

I also want to thank all members of the Council who added value to debate and voted in favor of the budget.

Together, we are building a stronger Milwaukee. We have more work to do and I look forward to your continued enthusiasm and collaboration.

Once again, thank you.


Tom Barrett


Posted Thursday Nov. 6, 2014:

The Historic Water Tower Neighborhood Board of Trustees voted Nov. 5 to support Mayor Tom Barrett’s proposal to add 12 police officers in 2015 and retain existing police overtime.

MJS w_bikecop 04 , mjs, news_DeSisti_0673.jpgThe vote followed Common Council committee amendments to delete the 12 new officers from the 2015 budget and reduce police overtime funding for 15 full-time-equivalents of police officers.

The Common Council votes on the amendments on Friday Nov. 7.

To learn more about the various positions, please read the HWTN letter to Ald. Nik Kovac, the mayor’s letter to the public and a news release from several aldermen, as well as a recent Journal Sentinel story.

To tell your elected officials how you feel about this issue, email Ald. Kovac and / or Mayor Barrett.