Milwaukee police are under fire for impounding a minivan — for eight hours in a tow lot — without realizing that a 4-year-old girl was strapped in the back seat and trapped inside the entire time.
The incident took place this week after police arrested a woman for allegedly driving drunk near the city’s Jackson Park. As Global News reported, police removed a 10-month-old child from the back seat, but did not see another 4-year-old who was in the car. Police claimed that a public works employee also inspected the car with a flash light as soon as it arrived on the lot, but did not see the girl.
It was not until eight hours later that another officer happened to hear cries coming from the impounded vehicle, and went to investigate.
“Apparently the girl was very upset and crying, something that none of us would like to have happen to any of our children,” public works commissioner Jeff Polenske said Tuesday.
The situation could have been deadly for the little girl. Temperatures in Milwaukee dropped to the high teens while the girl was inside the car.
“That’s a four-year-old that could have died in this cold weather,” Cassie Walenga told TMJ-4 News in Milwaukee.
This is not the first time that a caregiver has made news for leaving a child trapped in a vehicle. This past summer, a 3-year-old boy died in Florida after day care workers forgot him in a van after taking a field trip to a nearby park. As ABC 13 reported, the day care center had been in trouble in the past for vehicle-related violations.
“According to records, the daycare was cited for several violations involving their van in 2015,” the report noted. “One violation included not having an electronic child safety alarm, which is used to notify a driver that a child was left in the vehicle.”
“The daycare was also cited for not reporting a wreck involving the van in a timely manner, and for a driver not knowing the number of children in her group.”
Officials in Milwaukee have vowed to make changes after the 4-year-old girl was left in her family’s minivan. Jeff Polenske said that the department is now working to make sure that this never happens again — and will be instituting more thorough examination of vehicles that are impounded. The woman arrested for drunk driving will face criminal charges, police said, but they have not yet said if anyone will face discipline or possible charges for leaving the girl in the car overnight.