Thursday, August 6, 2020 - 9:34am

Even as our City grapples with the effects of a national pandemic, and strives to come to grips with the scourge of systemic racism and inequality within our community, we face yet another critical challenge – the rising incidence of gun violence on our streets. Like many cities across the country, we have seen a disturbing increase in these violent crimes over the last month.

Gun violence in Madison is not confined to, or rooted in, any one neighborhood or community. It affects the entire City, fueled by reckless and dangerous acts by a few individuals, intent on settling scores and willing to endanger their neighbors or innocent bystanders in the process.

Our response must also be citywide. Traditional policing is an important and necessary strategy, and MPD is working hard to hold accountable those responsible for the recent gun homicides and to respond rapidly to shots fired incidents. I have complete confidence in their ability to do so.

But a truly effective response requires a community response. Every time shots are fired in Madison, we need help from victims and witnesses to identify those involved. I am asking anyone who can to take courage, step up, and prevent the next round of violence. I recognize that may not be easy to do, but I encourage people to take that step. There were children at the memorial service in Garner Park two nights ago that could have been killed. A child’s shin was grazed a week ago on the east side. I know that everyone in Madison wants all our kids to be safe, and we all have to work to keep them safe.

We also need community based prevention strategies. One example, currently in place, is work being done by the Focused Interruption Coalition (FIC). FIC, using a peer support model, seeks to reduce violence by intervening in situations where there is a risk of violent activity, and extending support to people affected by violence. Another prevention effort funded by the City are the JustDane (formerly the Madison-Area Urban Ministry) programs that works to help those formerly incarcerated to build better lives and reduce recidivism.

A number of other communities are responding to the extraordinary circumstances we face with new types of interventions. Some have turned to people previously incarcerated for firearm offenses to serve as Neighborhood Change Agents who provide street outreach, case management and life coaching. Others have devised programs that work with young people, offering them opportunities for personal, social, educational, and vocational growth and development. There are similar community-based efforts here in Madison that we can build on. We are learning from these and other experiences and working to support and identify additional programs that can help here in Madison.

One remedy that remains out of our reach is common sense gun control. Madison, like every other Wisconsin city, is pre-empted from taking action on that front by the State Legislature, which has abandoned its responsibility to help prevent gun violence and denied local officials the ability to enact their own safeguards.

Combatting gun violence in our community will take a community-wide effort, but I am confident we can do that. I will continue to work with all our community partners to this end.

If you have information about incidents of gun violence in Madison, you can report that information anonymously to Madison Area Crimestoppers at (608) 266-6014 or p3tips.com.

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Category: 
Health & Safety