Hello Midtown District!
Despite the recent snow, spring is coming! Along with warmer weather, MMSD recently announced the return to in-person learning. The change of season and the re-opening of schools provide opportunities and challenges for Midtown PD and our district residents, and I want to talk about some steps both MPD and the community, working in partnership, can take to have a safe(r) spring season. For this post, I will focus on violent crime, property crime, and driving concerns.
For as long as I have been a police officer, the normal pattern--and not unique to Madison--is that as weather warms, we experience more CFS (calls for service); with this increase in CFS comes a concomitant increase in calls involving violence-- i.e. batteries, weapons offenses, and shots fired to name a few. Coming off a 2020 that saw record violence, and noting that there has been a substantial uptick in year-to-date shots fired versus this time in 2020, safety is, and must remain, a primary concern of Midtown PD (and MPD overall).
MPD utilizes numerous strategies to combat violence, including prioritizing patrol response to violent calls, allocating additional district and departmental resources to areas of concern, working with community partners (such as FIC), and using data to identify problems and focus appropriate problem solving initiatives. Midtown works in close collaboration with other MPD units such as our Violent Crimes Unit (VCU), MPD's lead on many of the shootings, including the recent shooting on Gammon Rd. As always, MPD continues to explore ways to provide more responsive and effective strategies to mitigate violent crime. But we also need help from you. If you witness something, please call us. If you are the victim of crime, please call us. If you observe suspicious activity, please call us.
I also know that warmer weather means many people will have their windows open at night, and so you will hear more of the outside world (including, at times, gunshots). If you hear what sounds like shots, please call us right away. While some of these are determined to be firecrackers or car backfires, some are founded. Calling MPD quickly is important for several reasons: first, if someone is injured, we can get aid to that person faster; second, it increases our chance of locating suspects; third, the likelihood of being able to collect evidence diminishes over time...so please call!
I am always happy to discuss public safety--either in a meeting, a phone call, or via email. And please talk to your neighbors, your neighborhood associations, and alders about your public safety concerns and expectations.
Midtown has experienced property crime concerns including burglaries, thefts from auto, and stolen cars. Being safe this spring also means keeping your doors locked, even when you are home. I grew up in a Madison where we didn't 'lock up'; while it is disheartening to have to tell people to keep their doors locked and garage doors closed, the reality is that you better protect yourself and your family by locking your doors. If you are going to leave windows open for that fresh spring air, consider leaving windows locked, especially overnight, and/or having jambs in place that do not allow access for a person to make entry through the window. Keep valuables like lap-tops and purses out of sight of ground floor windows. By keeping your doors/windows locked, and valuables out of view, you are less likely to be victimized. If you see suspicious activity, please call us--even small bits of information can lead to identifying and arresting suspects who are often prolific and responsible for multiple crimes. You may also want to consider motion lights and home-surveillance systems as the former may reduce the likelihood of being burglarized and the latter increases the likelihood of the suspects being identified and caught. If you do have a camera system and want to register it with MPD, please check https://www.cityofmadison.com/police/forms/securityCamera.cfm.
Keeping your vehicle locked is also important. If you opt to keep valuables in your vehicle, please keep them out of sight. I would also strongly caution against storing firearms in your car, as many firearms have been stolen out of vehicles in recent years, and some of those end up being used for criminal acts. As with many property crimes, small numbers of suspects are typically responsible for multiple thefts from autos, so the more information we receive, the greater the chance to identify and arrest the perpetrator(s).
One property crime type that we hope to see drop with the warmer weather are stolen cars, as fewer people are leaving their cars running to warm up. However, stolen cars remain a significant problem--not only the cost and inconvenience to the victim owner, but also the damage done by the illegal and often dangerous operation of these cars--including crashes, which sometime cause injury or even death. Stolen cars are often used to commit other crimes, including burglaries and weapons offenses. In addition to not warming up your unlocked car, I also urge you not to keep your car keys in your vehicle, even when it is your garage.
Midtown constituents routinely express their concern about traffic issues, and I know many of you are understandably worried about the dangerous driving which appears to be happening throughout the city on an alarmingly routine basis. My Midtown Team (and our MPD partners on the TEST) and I are also very concerned about dangerous driving. As the weather improves, and more people are out and about, the density of vehicle and pedestrian traffic will only increase. Reckless driving, speeding, disregarding traffic controls, and focusing on personal electronic devices can have devastating consequences. Tragically, Midtown had several fatal crashes last year, including those involving absolutely reckless criminal behavior. Midtown PD will be as responsive as resources allow to address traffic complaints, and we plan on giving extra attention to school zones as the schools re-open. I am concerned that school zone safety will be particularly challenging this spring, as many drivers may have become used to school not being in session, and they may not be as aware of the school related traffic patterns. (As a reminder, the crossing guard program is now part of Traffic Engineering). We rely on you to let us know when you observe dangerous driving, especially when it is a pattern, so we can deploy officers more efficiently. However, enforcement is only one component, and we cannot be everywhere and have to triage traffic enforcement around responding to priority CFS (like burglaries in progress and shots-fired). One non-enforcement option is deployment of our Midtown speed board. Importantly, we also need all of our drivers to set good examples, communicate expectations to their driving-age children, and pay attention to posted speeds and traffic conditions. If you observe speeding or other traffic issues, please let us know; but also consider working with your Alder and other city agencies such as Traffic Engineering to explore options to impact traffic flow, speed, density.
MPD is committed to policing in partnership with the community. I truly believe that together with your help and support, my team of dedicated and conscientious professionals will work towards a safer spring and beyond.