FILE - Wisconsin State Capitol

The Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.

Republicans at the statehouse in Madison say they want to add some teeth to Wisconsin's laws for carjacking, and add some boots on the ground to enforce them. 

Included in the Republican "tough on crime" push is a piece of legislation that grants prosecutors and judges more leeway in charging people who steal cars, particularly young offenders.

"The average age, 20 years ago, was around 40. And all of a sudden they're showing the average age for these car thefts is around 18-years-old," Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, said. "We just want to make sure that law enforcement has the tools that they need."

Kapenga's legislation would increase the penalties by one felony classification. It also imposes a 30-day mandatory minimum term of incarceration for vehicle theft, knowingly being a passenger in a stolen vehicle, or for removing a part of a vehicle without consent of the owner. This change would also apply to juvenile cases. 

Another part of the Republicans' crime package would provide grants for police departments and local sheriff's offices to add officers, or at least maintain their strength. 

"We've seen a trend all over the state that our police force has shrunk by about 3 percent," Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, said. "But at the same time crime in Wisconsin has defied what is happening around the country. We see about a 14 percent decline in violent crime, according to the FBI statistics. But if you look in Wisconsin, our 10 most-populous cities are seeing about a 24 percent increase in crime."

The two pieces of legislation are part of a broader package. The other ideas focus on sending repeat offenders back to prison and nixing early-release for violent criminals. Those proposals have already had a hearing at the Capitol. The legislation on carjacking and police grants have yet to see a vote. 

The Center Square Contributor

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.