City buses to make room for MPD

Marquette students Laura Xi and Bolzn Lz take a bus to go to the Metro Market. Photo by Martina Ibanez/[email protected]

In response to a large number of recent violent incidents on the Milwaukee County Transit System, uniformed Milwaukee police officers are boarding city buses to keep riders safe.

Police Chief Edward Flynn announced in mid-December that the Milwaukee Police Department would begin to patrol buses, a job traditionally allocated to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office and the private contractor G4S. According to Sheriff David Clarke, recent county budget cuts have forced him to lay off roughly 50 deputies, resulting in his office’s decreased ability to respond to problems.

“It is not a new thing for the Police Department of Milwaukee to board buses,” Flynn said during a meeting with the sheriff and city aldermen at City Hall last Wednesday. “What we’re able to do now with data and with the good working relationship with Wackenhut (now G4S) is to focus our approach.”

Flynn’s announcement back in December drew some criticism from the sheriff’s office after he appeared to be critical of Clarke’s explanation that a smaller force of deputies was prohibiting him from fully responding to the incidents.

“The public pays us to protect them, not make excuses why we can’t,” said Flynn during the announcement in December.

During the meeting Wednesday, Clarke responded by saying he would “have appreciated probably a phone call from (Flynn).”

“’I’ve got some resources I could help you out (with),” Clarke said. “That would have been more collaborative than ‘Well, he says it can’t be done, we’ll do it and we don’t want to hear excuses.’ I didn’t appreciate that.”

December saw many high profile criminal incidents occurring on city buses. On Dec. 7, a bus driver on Route 27 was attacked after a rider refused to pay his fare, and on Dec. 15, a 12-year-old girl and 24-year-old woman were involved in an altercation on a Route 35 bus that ended with the latter being stomped on the ground by multiple attackers while trying to retrieve her 2-year-old child.

Other incidents have included drug dealing at bus stops, assaults by high school students and various fights, one of which ended with a bus window being kicked out.

The sheriff’s office has identified Routes 12, 19, 23, 27, 30 and 80 as the most troublesome. Routes 12, 23, and 30 all stop at the 12th Street bus stop outside of Cobeen Hall, while Routes 23 and 30 also stop near McCormick Hall and Straz Tower.

Peter Kouvaris, a freshman in the College of Business Administration, said a police presence on city buses would be welcomed by those who ride them and especially by Marquette students.

“I think adding cops will not only reduce crime, but make students more comfortable and willing to use the bus,” Kourvaris said.

Megan Arriola, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences and frequent bus rider, agreed with Kouvaris.

“I ride the bus a lot and there are definitely a lot of sketchy people on there,” Arriola said. “It will definitely make me feel better.”