Fall is officially here, so it’s time to reflect on how summer went. The summer of 2022 was in many ways a comeback summer for Madison. Residents were out in force all summer long – at our neighborhood festivals, listening to outdoor music, strolling through art fairs and enjoying our parks, lakes and paths. But it was more than that. As Mayor, I always have my eye on the numbers when it comes to safety and well-being. The numbers this summer were much improved from the prior couple of summers. Our hard work is paying off, and that is something to be thankful for. Here are a few highlights.Vision Zero logo

Public Safety Improvements

When it comes to public safety, we are seeing a positive change in both traffic incidents and violent crime. Comparing the first half of 2022 with the same time period of 2021, we have seen crashes with fatalities and serious injuries down 29%. It’s worth noting that Madison’s trend is moving in the right direction, while nationally traffic fatalities are unfortunately increasing. Madison’s Vision Zero initiative has placed a strong emphasis on traffic, bike and pedestrian safety by improving intersections, changing speed limits and more, while the Madison Police Department (MPD) has increased enforcement of speed limits and traffic violations on targeted streets. It’s good to see that our efforts have started to pay off.

We see another positive change when looking at violent gun-related crime. As of September 2022, the City has seen an 18.5% reduction in the number of “shots fired” incidents compared to the same timeframe in 2021. This is great news. When we saw the stress and social isolation of the pandemic impacting violent crime in 2020, we refocused our efforts on violence prevention, and we do that work with a public health approach. While there is more work to do, I am pleased to see a trend heading in the right direction.

A Parks Alive! eventA “Launch” Year for Parks Alive!

This summer, the City hosted a new series of events called Parks Alive! Thirty Parks Alive! events were held in parks across the City, inviting neighbors to come together to hear live music, join some hands-on activities like face-painting and bouncy houses, and grab a bite to eat. We relied on both City staff and community residents and leaders to engage residents and energize these events. They were a big success and a great way to build stronger connections between young people and adults, and build trust between residents and City staff. We had an average of 110 residents attend each event, with a total attendance of over 3,100. And our community partners who joined these events have their own success stories too – like the Madison Reading Project, which gave out 1,156 free books to kids. These events were incredibly fun and successful, and they are an important part of fostering strong neighborhoods. We look forward to supporting Parks Alive! for years to come.

Youth Employment Expanded

We have worked hard to re-engage our youth as we emerge from the pandemic and ensure that we are providing positive opportunities for socializing, working and developing leadership skills. City funds support 10 community-based organizations to provide 19 different employment programs to serve around 500 youth. With the support of federal funding, in 2022 we were able to fund an additional 10 youth employment programs, serving another 250 youth. Around 165 of them also received work-based credit from the Madison Metropolitan School District. For the second year running, over 350 youth received Financial Empowerment Education through the City-supported “Benefits of Banking" program, as we worked to connect earning a summer paycheck to good financial empowerment education. We expect 175 youth to have opened bank accounts and received a paycheck via direct deposit.

Madison CARES ExpansionCARES logo

In 2021, Madison launched a Community Alternative Response for Emergency Services (CARES) Team to respond to nonviolent 911 calls for mental health emergencies. CARES Teams are made up of community paramedics and crisis workers, and the program began with limited hours and a limited geography in order to spend a year learning and innovating before expanding the program. After six months, the CARES team expanded to provide services citywide, and we opened a second CARES team location on Fish Hatchery Rd. to shorten response times. CARES teams have a patient-centric approach focused on deescalation, treatment and connection to services. Their approach is designed to divert people subject to an emergency call from hospitals and jails, and we are seeing success with over 1,000 CARES calls answered. This is a valuable service we are now offering to Madisonians across the City, and this was our first summer with CARES fully operating.

Steep Decline in Outdoor Camping

We have worked very hard, since the start of the pandemic, to improve services for those experiencing homelessness. We moved single men out of unsafe church basement settings and into more spacious temporary spaces, and are planning the development of a permanent men’s shelter, complete with support services. We purchased a closed nursing home and renovated it for use in offering expanded, 24-hour a day shelter services for families – a space that can safely accommodate 40% more families than the previous shelter site. We established the state’s first urban campground to provide an alternative shelter for up to 30 people while Dane County set up and operated respite operations for homeless persons exposed to COVID. All of these steps represent marked improvements in our support for people experiencing homelessness.

Evidence of our success can be found in the reduced number of homeless persons who are unsheltered. We estimate about 50 people are sleeping outdoors, well below the 200 or more seen in previous years. And while our goal is that nobody opts to sleep outside, I believe the current lower numbers suggest our efforts to improve the support system have been mostly successful. Our ultimate goal remains not just to provide better shelter options, but to help people transition back into permanent housing. For example, the Dairy Drive campground has served 50 people since it opened less than a year ago. With the help of on-site services, 20 of them have found and moved into housing, a 40% success rate. That’s a very positive outcome and shows what can be accomplished when the public and private sectors combine resources to try new approaches to addressing complex issues such as homelessness.

While the year is not over and there is work yet to be done, it’s good to pause, recognize some good news and appreciate what we’ve been able to accomplish. No matter what season we’re in, we’ll keep working together to build a better Madison.

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