Recent incidents of gun violence have understandably caused concern amongst Madison residents and visitors. While homicides and shots fired in Madison are down from last year, all violence in our community is unacceptable and I wanted to share with you how the City is working creatively and diligently to provide services, investments and best practices across agencies to address this difficult problem. It’s important to note that the pandemic has fueled gun related crimes nationwide highlighting the danger of having weak gun laws that enable firearms to fall into the wrong hands. Here in Wisconsin, the NRA worked with state legislators to ban or preempt cities from taking measures to get guns off the streets back in 1995 and changes made by the state legislature since then have only made the situation worse, creating serious challenges for law enforcement and for our community as a whole.

The Madison Police Department (MPD) has diligently responded to each and every report of shots fired, and has worked hard to hold shooters accountable. I’ve been very impressed with the pace of their investigations.  Police Chief Barnes, with my full support, is using a data-driven approach to identifying patterns in these incidents. Under his leadership, MPD has been engaging in a strategic planning process, using environmental assessments, crime data, and community engagement tactics to station and equip officers where they need to be when they need to be there. The Chief reports that this approach has been helpful in preventing property crimes and will continue to be applied to other issues MPD is facing.

This Wednesday  also marks one week of operations for the City’s new CARES Team for mental health emergencies. Pairs of community paramedics and Journey Mental Health workers will respond to nonviolent mental health calls for service in place of armed officers. This new innovation will better serve patients in need, reduce contacts with the criminal justice system and trips to the emergency room and free up time for MPD to attend to violent crimes.

Public Health Madison Dane County’s Violence Prevention Unit is leading community intervention programming that supports and complements law enforcement work via their Roadmap to Reducing  Violence. This plan brings together actors from across community to reduce and prevent violence by addressing root causes, building community capacity, and creating better systems for addressing low level conflict before it escalates.

I have also recently invested heavily in youth employment and educational programming utilizing federal ARPA funds. This investment aims to occupy, engage, empower and prepare youth for their futures through productive endeavors so they stay out of trouble and perhaps more importantly out of the crosshairs. Our Community Development Division manages a wide range of contracts with community-based agencies that address the root causes of violence, and those partners also contribute to violence prevention efforts.

We’ve heard from MPD officers and leadership that we can’t police our way out of all of our problems and we know that over time too much has been laid at the feet of the nation’s police departments. They need support from partner agencies that can address issues in different ways and before they escalate to violence. This is not an either/or; it is a both/and – we need law enforcement to address violent crime and hold people accountable for their actions; we need a public health approach to support victims and break the cycle of violence; we need investment in our communities and especially our young people to keep violence from taking root. We are taking a multifaceted approach in addressing violence in our community. I’m committed to creating a Madison where everyone feels welcome, safe and supported and believe this is how we get there.

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