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Police Blotter

Downtown Crime Concerns

September 25, 2013 1:38 PM

Madison is ranked the fourth safest city in the United States.

However,  there have been a number of inquiries recently regarding downtown crime numbers as a couple of high profile cases have generated concern among residents, and in many cases, their out of town parents.

We have taken a look at robbery and burglary numbers, from May 1 to September 23, going back five years.

There are two categories for robberies: armed robberies and strong-armed robberies. Armed robberies are those where typically a weapon – like a gun or knife – is seen. A strong-armed robbery is one where there is no weapon.

Here are the numbers:

Armed Robberies:

2009 = 6
2010 = 12
2011 = 7
2012= 9
2013 = 10

Strong-armed Robberies

2010=  8
2011= 12
2012= 17
2013 = 24

The number of strong-armed robberies is up a tick, and there is a reason for this. Earlier this summer, a national trend made its way to the Capitol City. Some call it "Apple Picking." We were experiencing a significant number of smart phone thefts downtown, and also a number of strong-armed robberies where perpetrators were grabbing phones out of victims' hands, sometimes knocking them down. The MPD has worked hard to address these crimes, and the volume of cases has dropped. A MPD YouTube video was posted at the beginning of the school semester. It provides some tips on how to avoid being victimized.

While there is no obvious spike in armed robberies, there have been some that have been particularly concerning, like two seemingly random home invasions that took place in early September. These happened in our South District, and South District Capt. Joe Balles posted detailed information on these crimes.

The home invasions, and several other recent armed robberies, continue to be the focus of significant police resources. 

While they were being investigated, there was another incident that garnered public attention: a shot being fired on Langdon St. Two suspects were captured and the crime that preceded gunfire, while unfortunate, is not unusual. It was a drug related robbery. Most armed robberies that take place inside homes are linked to drugs, which is why the two highlighted by Capt. Balles were more troubling.

Another crime category impacting downtown residents is burglary.  Again, looking at a time frame of May 1 to Sept. 23, going back five years, here are the numbers:

2009 = 76
2010 = 79
2011 = 100
2012= 117
2013 = 112

In many cases, burglars enter homes where doors or windows are unlocked or unlatched. Many young people not only own expensive cell phones, as referenced above, but laptop computers and other electronics, like gaming systems. These are often targets of criminals, and we know some are specifically looking to victimize students. We know this because one burglar recently tackled and captured by students said as much while talking to an investigator: "College students get drunk and they don't know what happens," said the 15-year old suspect. There is also an MPD YouTube video that provides tips on how to avoid being victimized by such a criminal.

A third group of crimes getting a lot of the MPD's attention has to do with three recent attacks on young women. In all cases the victims fought off the attacker. In two cases victims were sexually groped. In two cases perpetrator descriptions were very similar. It's possible all three could be linked. Such attacks on women will not be tolerated in this community.

This information is not meant to instill fear. The reality is Madison, as mentioned earlier, is the 4th safest city in the United States, but that is not to say bad things do not happen here. They do.

The MPD will continue to deploy additional patrol officers on the days and times when most problems occur downtown. Our South and Central District detectives, working in concert with the South and Central District Community Police Teams, our Crime Prevention & Gang Unit, our crime analysts, our patrol officers, and the UW-Madison Police Department, will all stay focused on taking perpetrators off our streets.

We also need your help. You need to take personal safety seriously:

• Try not to walk alone at night, especially in dark or scarcely populated areas.
• Be careful about displaying cell phones or other electronics when out in public.
• Wearing headphones, particularly at night, decreases needed situational awareness.
• If confronted by a robber, the best advice is to give up your property and don't resist.
• Keep your doors and windows locked – even when you're home.
• Don't prop open exterior doors.
• Don't buzz people into your building that you do not know.
• Record serial numbers of your valuables.
• If you see suspicious or criminal behavior, do not hesitate, call 911.

Madison is a great place to live, learn, and play, but we must all stay vigilant, and watch after one another.



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