City leaders question MPD issuing citations at park-and-ride not owned by the city

NOW: City leaders question MPD issuing citations at park-and-ride not owned by the city

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Dozens of people are once again able to stay overnight in their vehicles at the Holt Avenue Park-and-Ride.

Just after midnight Friday morning, Dec. 1, MPD officers swept into the lot and started issuing citations, notifying people their vehicles will not be allowed to stay overnight during the winter months.

But a few hours later, MPD backtracked and voided those citations.

For now, the people living there are able to stay.

The people living there told us they look out for each other while trying to get by during challenging times. But they said it felt like MPD was not looking out for them when officers started the operation.

We got a tour of the camp Friday night by a man who didn't want to show his face on camera.

He's one of dozens of people -singles and couples- who live in their vehicles at the Holt Avenue Park-and-Ride.

He said they're there for different reasons -some have made mistakes; others lost their homes in a fire. But all of them are trying to help each other.

There are shared generators and refrigerators, a makeshift food pantry for anyone to use, and communal fuel tanks for heaters.

All of that was threatened Friday morning when Milwaukee police moved in.

The man who walked us around said at least five tow trucks came in, threatening to take cars away.

Some citations and warnings remained on some vehicles Friday night, though earlier in the day, MPD said it was in the process of voiding each one that was issued.

But a few hours later, MPD backtracked, saying in a statement, "it has been determined that City parking ordinances are not applicable to the Park-and-Ride."

The park-and-ride lot is not owned by the city, so it's unclear why MPD was there.

Milwaukee District 4 Alderman Bob Bauman said, "That would seem to be confusing to a lay person out there. I would've hoped they had figured that out ahead of time before they started issuing tickets. To make sure they have legal clear legal authority to do so."

Since it's not a city property, there was confusion throughout the day over whose jurisdiction the park-and-ride was in.

DPW said it wasn't them. The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office said it's not their lot.

We asked MPD who made the decision to move in. They responded, "There is no further information as we are in the process of reviewing the circumstances related to this incident."

At an event, we pressed Mayor Cavalier Johnson about MPD's decision. He said, "I don't know all the details on that. I know that that situation has been in development for some time. I don't have all the details on it just now."

But he did say the city is working to help unhoused people, and the county's Housing Services echoed that.

But with county outreach underway, and city ordinances not applying, there was still confusion as to why the citations were written in the first place.

Bauman said, "If there's some ambiguity surrounding that, that's on them. They should've had those ducks in a row and that's unfortunate."

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