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Central District Blotter

Update: 600 University Ave

December 11, 2017 12:53 PM

CPD Problem Solving Initiative

600 University Ave





Earlier this year, I blogged about a host of concerns occuring in the area of 600 University Ave.  Since that time, there have been a number of incidents, stories, and efforts made to address the myriad of challenges that face this very important part of our city. I wanted to take a moment and refresh the situation and provide you with an update detailing many of our efforts at addressing the concerns.


For many years, the area of 600 University Ave (including Frances St, Gilman St, Hawthorne Ct, Lake St, and the 600 block of State St) has generated many issues for the public and police--calls for service (CFS), disturbances, batteries, damage to property, and a variety of safety and quality of life concerns, usually related to the (over)consumption of alcohol.


The Central Police District (and all of MPD!) is aware of a number of areas of concern--some of which are historic and recurring; and others of which have emerged more recently.  Issues include the behaviors and demeanor of the bar-time crowd, late night food carts, parking ramp concerns, the taxi stands, and parking on the streets.  The growing violence and safety issues were, of course, preeminent. CPD began working on these various concerns, devoting significant amounts of time to comprehensively tackle the situation.


Most urgently, this area experienced what became a pattern or routine of very violent incidents, one of the first being a savage knock-out battery in Hawthorne Ct in February.  Mid-year a fight in the area seemed to directly lead to a homicide on the east side of Madison.  Later in the Fall, large disturbances took place on 3 consecutive Saturday nights at bar-time, requiring the use of OC (and sometimes horses) to disperse the crowds. Even with the onset of colder weather, we continue to have concerns and, just this last weekend, another large disturbance required OC spray to disperse (and two individuals were arrested).


(Intoxicated) crowd density--particularly after bar-time--is a driving factor impacting many of the issues.  However, the 600 University area is also becoming more reflective of the broader challenges of violence and behavior faced by the entire community.  These challenges may or may not be temporary.


The below is a summary of CPD's problem solving efforts in the area.  I cannot emphasize enough the collaborative work done between a number of different agencies including the Mayor's Office, City Attorney's Office, Building Inspection, Streets, Traffic Engineering, the Parking Utility, and our downtown Alders.


Actions Taken:

Late night food carts

Cart hours and locations were contributing to density concerns, especially after bars closed

CPD Command met numerous times with the Alders (Verveer and Wood), the City Attorney's Office, Vending, and the Vending Oversight Committee; we also organized a meeting with businesses being impacted by the carts who strongly supported changes in location and hours

Ultimately (after significant debate) the carts were moved effective 9/14

The VOC denied any changes in food cart hours

Officers report that, anecdotally at least, the move has been a positive step

Work remains to solidify and build on improvements for the next season (which begins next spring)

Following a significant event at one of the food carts over the summer, CPD worked with the City Attorney's Office and the Vending Oversight Committee to successfully revoke the late night vending license of that cart

CPD posits that late night vending on 600 University (and after bar time in general) is counter-productive to our mission of addressing the safety concerns downtown.


Taxi Stand

The location of the stand on the 600 block contributed to both density issues as well as pedestrian and traffic safety

CPD Command met with Alder Verveer, Traffic Engineering, and other stakeholders and eventually moved the stand to the Gilman St area which presents fewer safety concerns and gets people moved off of the 600 block

We will continue to assess the current location; the optimal location is most likely west of 600 University but was not currently viable due to construction



Parking along 600 University and Hawthorne contributes to density in the area

Parking negatively impacts traffic flow and creates pedestrian hazards

Working with T&E and Alder Verveer, no stopping, standing, or parking signs were erected throughout the area for the overnight hours


Parking Ramp

The Lake/Frances ramp generates three concerns:

1) Pedestrian Safety:at the end of the evening, cars back up waiting to exit.Drivers get frustrated and there is a steady stream of vehicles exited the area simultaneously with a lot of pedestrian traffic

2) Criminal behavior taking place in the ramps--drug activity, batteries and etc.This was facilitated by having a 20-minute grace period upon entering the ramp

3) Parking staff often had to deal with people making poor choices after bar-time (including making change for people without credit cards)

To address these issues, CPD Command met with parking staff, Alder Verveer, Parking Utility and T&E to discuss pay on entry; on October 11th a resolution was passed allowing for pay on entry on some weekend nights and this feature has been utilized on a number of weekend nights

As resources/circumstances have allowed, DSI also started to patrol the ramps



We recognize that there are lighting issues in both public and private areas of 600 University (and surrounds)

Inadequate lighting is not only a safety issue but can also impact the quality of video evidence from City cameras (and therefore our ability to solve crimes)

Our City partners worked to increase City lighting in some of our area over 25% and we continue to explore additional ways to add illumination

We've also required some of the bars to install additional lighting



Lt Austin of CPD has done an outstanding job seeing DSI staffed at a very high level in 2017

Average Staffing level for 2017 has been in the 12-15 officer range; staffing costs in 2017 are significantly greater than in 2016, largely reflecting the increased number of people working on weekend nights and the increased number of weekends that fielded DSI contingents

Horses have been utilized with great success; horses provide both an excellent vantage point as well as ability to move into a crowd and move a crowd; horses are routinely asked to join DSI (and often present)

In response to a series of very violent batteries in February of 2017 near Hawthorne Ct, DSI resources were also utilized during a traditionally non DSI timeframe

MPD Command has worked multiple DSI initiatives to observe and experience the issues first hand

Staffing DSI at this very robust level is very challenging given the number of other demands on our officers



In an effort to address the large fights and disturbances that have broken out on several occasions, CPD requested the utilization of SET personnel to assist with bar-time incidents particularly on Saturday nights

On Saturday October 7th, approximately 12 SET personnel worked downtown supplementing the DSI contingent

SET provided approximately 15 additional personnel to work 12/2/17 for the Big 10 Championship game

CPD Command is also working with SET to incorporate SET presence on a semi-regular basis for the warmer months of 2018


Bar Meetings

Central CPT has led the effort regarding the downtown bars

Including walk-throughs, capacity checks, and enforcement

In the early summer, CPD Command reached out to a cadre of bar owners in the 600 block of University Ave in order to work collaboratively

There have been 3 fully attended group meetings where issues, information, concerns, and solutions were shared

Alder Verveer and the City Attorney's Office actively participate in these meetings

CPT established liaisons to work 1-on-1 with each establishment


Bar-Specific Issues/Meetings

When concerns or patterns are observed, we notify and work with the establishment in question to remedy, or at least mitigate, the concerns

CPT liaisons

Notification of issues/concerns

ALRC remains an option should compliance not be forthcoming



Working with Alder Zellers, additional cameras were brought into the downtown area in 2017

We are currently working with City IT to make the camera system more user friendly and responsive to MPD's needs

CPD continues to identify areas where additional cameras may be needed



CPD Command--along with Alders and the CA Office--will continue to address concerns (as appropriate) with the ALRC


Violence Suppression Initiative

CPD identified the area of 600 University as an appropriate location to utilize additional resources provided by the VSI

In addition to DSI, we fielded additional platoons of LE on several dates

Including ATF, P&P, Gang Unit, and TEST resources



CPD Command is currently working with UW POLD researches, UW Madison PD, and Public Health to look at trends related to alcohol, violence, calls for service, and how these patterns do or do not correlate with particular areas or establishments


I am very proud of the work that MPD and our various partners have done in 2017 to mitigate the issues on 600 University Ave; I also recognize that we have hard work still to do.  We are continuing to work with the Mayor's Office, the ALRC, Alders, City Agencies, and other partners, and are establishing new relationships and partnerships to work towards additional progress and safety.


Jason Freedman


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