Public Safety Briefing, Remarks by the Mayor
On August 17, 2022, the Mayor was joined by City Traffic Engineer Yang Tao, Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes and Madison Fire Department Assistant Chief for Medical Affairs Che Stedman for a media briefing on public safety.
The Mayor’s remarks are below. You can watch the full briefing by clicking on this link.
Thank you for joining us today for this briefing on Public Safety issues.
Everyone deserves to feel safe in their home, their neighborhood and their community. If we're going to get serious about tackling violence, we need to be tough in responding to crime after it happens AND, at the same time, take a comprehensive approach to be tough on the root causes of crime.
Madison is one of the safest cities in the nation, and shots fired incidents are down this year compared to last year, but any level of gun violence in our community is unacceptable.
Chief Barnes has taken the whole department through a strategic planning process that resulted in three top priorities, shots fired calls, stolen auto incidents and hazardous driving. He has had public meetings in each police district to accept public comment and input to shape the strategic planning. He has also commissioned a long-range strategic plan covering 5-7 years. I fully support this work and the efforts of the Chief and his team to address these serious issues.
I am particularly happy that he is investing in a data-informed analysis, and I was pleased to fund a new position – a Data, Reform and Innovation Director – in my last budget. This high-level position will deploy a criminologist to help us insure that officers are deployed where they are needed most to reduce over-policing and racial disparities.
But MPD can't do this work alone.
We need the help of our partners in the state and federal government to keep guns out the hands of people who commit crimes and we can't do it alone. The rise in violent crime is fueled by easy access to guns in our communities. We need common sense gun safety laws, including stronger background checks, red flag laws, cracking down on illegal guns, and banning assault weapons from our streets.
We also need to be just as aggressive in our focus on the root causes of crime. We need to use every tool in our toolbox to prevent crime and improve safety, including investing in mental health response, violence prevention, youth employment, and affordable housing.
In September last year, the City fielded a new 911 emergency response team called Madison CARES, that pairs a crisis worker and a paramedic to respond to nonviolent calls for behavioral health emergencies instead of the police. So far this year, CARES teams have responded to 850 calls. It is already clear that CARES has been very effective at connecting people to needed behavioral health services and the program frees up MPD’s time to focus on violent crime.
Every year, the City funds summer youth employment programs, spending about $900,000. The past few years we are supercharged those programs with about $700,000 in additional federal ARPA dollars to help our young people gain importance work skills and keep them gainfully occupied over the summer.
And of course our Public Health Department has a Violence Prevention Team that funds community groups doing much needed work and is building programs to help mediate and prevent violence in the community. This team will be expanding this year with new hires to help prevent crime downtown and to help mediate conflicts across the city.
In the bigger picture the City works hard on key elements of safe secure communities including affordable housing and economic security. Since I have been in office, I have increased our affordable housing fund by 64% and will include additional funds in next year’s budget. We invest significant funding into economic development for historically marginalized entrepreneurs and businesses. We have also launched the Madison Forward Fund to promote economic security for our most vulnerable families and build the evidence base for a guaranteed income project at the federal level.
All of us at the City are working hard to stop the violence, hold people accountable for their actions, and invest in positive solutions. Our approach is working, but we must continue our efforts, and we need our entire community to join us in creating a culture of safety and keeping Madison a place where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.