Villagers Still Frustrated

Crime, Drugs, Police

I received a copy of the below email from John Kishline, who lived next door to the Laughrin "drug house" on Berkeley, where the last chapter of the Maddie Kiefer story was written. The letter gives voice to a large segment of Whitefish Bay that remains frustrated.  Still frustrated after hearing explanations in print, on TV, and in person.  

I think this public frustration will continue for a long time, as people still just don't understand how a drug house operated for years, how neighbors tipped off police literally hundreds of times, how they failed to catch this obvious criminal. 

I know of citizens who have been trying to compile a list of suspected houses where drugs can be purchased.  You have to marvel at that.  Why are they doing it?  It's because they feel their police department isn't doing the job.   That's a dramatic lack of trust. 

I think people have been yearning to hear two things from the Police Department:

1. We should have handled the Laughrin house differently.  Two years and dozens of citizen calls should have made ending this business a daily priority until he was caught.

2. We learned from these events, and we will not let it happen again.

Unfortunately, that's just not been said.  What people hear is the PD's strict adherence to probable cause and avoidance of anything that could be considered police harassment.

I thought there was a fantastic opportunity at the Bay United forum, when the question was asked: What did you learn from the Maddie Kieffer tragedy?

Chief Jacobs' response: "I don't think we learned a lot new about the use of drugs in the community. ...  What was learned and reinforced was the importance and need for the police, schools, parents, and students to work closer together because that's the only way to identify what's occurring, when, where and who is doing it and be able to do something about it. "

But then you hear reports from Laughrin's neighbors, who did just that, over and over and over for two YEARS.  They called police dozens and dozens of times, with license plate numbers, descriptions, sometimes pictures of suspects.   Kishline even offered his home for police to use, as it overlooked Laughrin's bedroom, and could have been used for close surveillance.  Seemingly, all for naught, as Laughrin was able to continue his drug business until he overdosed someone.  I think most citizens believe had Kiefer not died, Laughrin's business would still be going.

On the one hand, I feel bad for my police department.  I've had excellent interactions with them, and think they are a professional group.  But at the same time, I feel bad for my community.  I put myself in the shoes of Laughrin's neighbors (or the other Berekely drug house, a few blocks away) and know I would be outraged if I were them, seeing a criminal business thriving on my block, finding the police helpless to stop him.

Even today, I imagine there are other neighbors in WFB, calling police to report drug activity on their block, wondering, who should they call to get action?  Katie Pritchard?   Other  Trustees?  Bay United?  As Kishline writes in his letter "Where do we turn?"

No wonder there's so much frustration!


Dear Katie Pritchard,
A tragedy happened next door.  I think it could have been avoided.  I and my neighbors tried to stop it and did what we were told.  It did not work.  We must find out why and change what needs to be changed to prevent a repeat performance.  We need communication and support from our police department.  So far, many of us feel we have not been getting it.  Where do we turn?

Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  No one in Whitefish Bay wants a repetition of policy and procedure that allowed Matt Laughrin's drug sales to go on for 2 years before Maddie Kiefer's death, so I think we need to know what our Police Department did leading up to March 1st of this year and why they did it.  It is the clearest and best indicator of what to expect from now on, or to know how to alter the protocol to get a different and better result.  The object here is to try to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.  I and many of my neighbors feel that the explanations from Chief Jacobs thus far have been inadequate and oblique.  I have questions that I think bear on the future well being of this community that ought to be answered.

I and my neighbors called the police about Matt's activity many more times than appear on the official police log released to the media (calls in the 4800 block of Berkeley in the last four years).  The log says I called 5 times. Why is that?  I called between 20 and 40 times.  I did not keep count because I thought the police would respond and eventually stop Matt from dealing.  When that didn't happen, I kept calling in frustration. Other neighbors corroborate this discrepancy.  Is there a reason for this and what is it?

Whenever the police did send a car here in response to one of my calls, it always took 10 or 15 minutes to get here.  I would call the dispatcher to describe a specific car, license plate, and description of the person entering Matt's house.  The people were in the house about 5 minutes and always left before the police arrived.  It is .8 of mile from the station to my house.  At 15 miles an hour, that's about 3.5 minutes to get here.  They have always responded with great dispatch to other calls of need.  Why the lag?

A year ago, when a squad arrived in response to one of my calls, I spoke to an officer in his car in the street about how long Matt's activity had been going on and was told that 'a higher authority is at work here'.  He would  not elaborate and it was never mentioned again.  Did the Whitefish Bay police defer pursuit of Matt Laughrin at the request of another agency?  If so, to whom, why and for what reason?  If not, why was I told this?  To placate me?  If true, can we expect to have the safety and peace of mind of Village residents bartered again in the future?  Why and for what?  The Chief said that they could not get a warrant because Matt's house was occupied by a parent and not used solely for a drug house. 
If a brain damaged convicted heroin user has a steady stream of disparate, but recurring, people driving up to his house, entering through the back door and leaving in 5 minutes when his parent is not home, and it goes on for two years, what can you suspect?  Chief Jacobs has said he needed probable cause to stop people and/or search them.  I too believe in the Bill of Rights, but did the Chief or his department ever actually go before a judge and try to get a search warrant or a wiretap before March 1st?  If so, what was the response?  If not, why didn't he try?

Chief Jacobs should answer these questions and engage the citizens of this village in a dialogue that is obviously long overdue.  He has lacked imagination in dealing with this community.  The neighbors on Berkeley Blvd. asked him for help.  Sandy Laughrin asked him for help.  After two years of us informing his department, he obfuscates saying he can't talk about the case and does no outreach to this neighborhood.

The residents on this block asked for help but were frustrated by the lack of communication and response.  We were told at the Bay United meeting that there is another house in the village that has drug activity.  What can a resident of that block expect if they call the Whitefish Bay police to report the kind of activity we did?  I think we really, really need to know the answer to that question.

John Kishline


Make sure you read other items:

  1. Bay United Forum / Videos
  2. Election Wrapup
  3. Thank you
  4. WFB Police Chief on the record..
  5. DeMuth Drops out of School Board Race
  6. Drug death - Day 3
  7. Searching for answers..
  8. Another Sad WFB Overdose
  9. Are you in the WFB Crime Zone?
  10. The Real Property Tax Report
  11. Buckley for WFB Trustee?
  12. Here's an idea: WFB Wi-Fi

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