It is my honor and privilege to currently serve as a Deputy District Attorney for Waukesha County. Over the past 9 years, I have served southeast Wisconsin as a criminal prosecutor, always with the aim of protecting children and families across this region.
I strongly believe that our role as a prosecuting agency is to honor the good work of our law enforcement partners. Having witnessed their work for over 17 years as a prosecutor, I am amazed on a daily basis by the sacrifices that they make. So many of these efforts are never seen by the public at large. So much of their work occurs in relative obscurity, as they pick up the pieces of horrible tragedies (like the Roundy’s Distribution murders, or the Village of Hartland murders/suicides), comforting grieving family members, responding to mental health crises, or defusing domestic violence emergencies. The best way to honor their sacrifices is to assemble and lead a team of the most qualified and devoted prosecutors in the State of Wisconsin.
In 2020, the Human Trafficking Institute ranked Wisconsin as sixth in the nation for human trafficking cases. In a WISN news article from September of 2022, the Milwaukee Police Department estimated that human trafficking has increased by 51% since 2021. Frequently, we see first-hand examples of human trafficking spilling over from Milwaukee into Waukesha, especially into our hotel districts along the I-94 corridor. While this is one of the thorniest of law enforcement issues we face, we no longer have the luxury of ignoring it, especially because of all of the problems associated with the trafficking, include drug trafficking, gun violence, and prostitution. I have first-hand experience prosecuting human trafficking cases, including jury trials in Atlanta and Milwaukee.
On August 1, 2022, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow declared fentanyl a community health crisis. In Waukesha County, drug-related deaths became the leading non-natural cause of death for adults ages 18-45 in 2020 and 201. In 2021, at least ninety-two people died from drug-related deaths. For our law enforcement partners in Waukesha County, these numbers reflect a war that we having been waging over the past 15 years to keep Waukesha County safe. We have a strong network of law enforcement and community partners who are committed to addressing this opioid crisis that continues to sweep across our nation. I will do everything I can to see that our Office remains committed to mitigating this crisis.
According to projections from Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services, the number of the elderly population in Waukesha County who will suffer from dementia will grow from roughly 9,300 residents in 2020 to nearly 18,000 residents in 2040. In a recent report from the nonprofit group Report Elder Abuse Wisconsin, the number of report elder abuse cases has skyrocketed from 3251, in 2001, to 10,742, in 2021. As criminal prosecutors here in Wisconsin, we are only beginning to acknowledge the enormity and complexities of these cases. We are very lucky to have a specially trained team (a prosecutor and a paralegal) who are leaders in this field in Wisconsin. My intention is to expand this awareness and specialization across the District Attorney’s Office, and across our law enforcement partners in Waukesha County. We will continue to lead in this growing fight involving some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
According to End Abuse Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization that tracks domestic violence statistics statewide, 2021 set a record for the most domestic violence homicides statewide. This violence hasn’t been confined to Milwaukee. In October of 2020, the Village of Hartland witnessed a horrific domestic violence crime involving the murder-suicide of an entire family of six. A year earlier, the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy was originally fueled by domestic violence impulses. While these domestic violence fires are raging, kids and family suffer. Boys who witness violence in the household are dramatically more likely to become batterers themselves. Girls who witness violence in the household are dramatically more likely to submit to future abusers. Only by aggressively confronting this abuse can we crack the scourge of generational violence that is so pervasive across our metropolitan area.
Our staff is not immune to the trauma that we encounter on a daily basis. Our stenographers have little relief from the horrific content that they type up and prepare for court. Our victim witness staff navigates the raw crises that our victims frequently experience. Our discovery clerks carefully handle medical records where the pain and the suffering of our victims is clearly documented. Our prosecutors are faced with the daunting challenge of navigating all of this, while trying to achieve favorable outcomes. Being cognizant of this secondary trauma, and being thoughtful of the many ways this trauma can be addressed, is a mission that we will continue to pursue in the years to come.
Our business community is the lifeblood of our county. Our business partners have faced many challenges over the past few years. While we may be limited in what we can do to assist our business partners, we can work closely with them in addressing secondary issues they might face. One issue is to address the challenging homeless population in downtown Waukesha. The second issue is our commitment to addressing the opioid and alcohol issues that face our community. We want to be thoughtful about the ramifications of our prosecutorial decisions, and how they effect Waukesha families who our local businesses rely on.
Victim and witness intimidation is the unfortunate but predictable corollary to this epidemic of domestic violence that has erupted since our COVID-19 pandemic began. We have many tools to address these intimidation efforts. Since 2019, when we formed a new sensitive crime and domestic violence unit in Waukesha County, we have been employing those methods. I intend to continue to aggressively pursue and expand our capabilities to root out the most egregious and violent domestic violence perpetrators. The chaos that these most uninhibited domestic violence perpetrators – like the Christmas Parade Defendant – is incalculable.
We are currently blessed to have two specialty courts in Waukesha County – a drug treatment court and an alcohol treatment court. These courts target individuals with these specific needs, in a comprehensive manner, with a variety of community partners. In this County of 400,000 residents, with our proximity to the Veterans Affairs Hospital and many elite and local mental providers, we have a duty to explore the feasibility of adding a Veteran’s Court, in the same manner that other communities like Milwaukee County, Dane County, and Rock County currently have (among many others). These Veteran Courts are designed specifically to address the post-traumatic stress issues that our veterans struggle with as they reintegrate back into the communities where they reside.