Truax Housing

The Truax Park apartment complex, photographed here in 2016, would see daily patrols by an armed security guard under a proposed contract.

Madison’s Community Development Authority will survey residents and gather Madison Police Department data before voting on a contract to hire armed security guards for five public housing complexes on the city’s west and east sides.

The city has had armed security in place at some CDA housing sites for the past 25 years, according to CDA Deputy Director Deborah Rakowski. For the past year, there has not been a contract in place because the previous security company CDA worked with dissolved.

CDA board members wanted to make a decision on the new contract after considering input from residents and data on police incidents at public housing sites. They voted Thursday to delay the decision until February.

“I’d like to know what kind of problem we’re trying to solve by having this kind of security in place,” Ald. Tag Evers, District 13, said.

The proposed contract with National Security and Investigations calls for two armed security guards to patrol five sites, which Rakowski said have the highest concentration of units and tend to see the most criminal activity. These locations do not have an assigned Madison Police Department neighborhood officer.

“Our intention behind this contract is really the safety of our residents,” Rakowski said.

Under the contract, the security guards would patrol three properties on the west side and two east side properties on a daily basis. These include:

  • Baird Fisher Apartments, located on the 2000 block of Baird and the 200 block of Fisher Street
  • Romnes Apartments, located at 540 West Olin Ave.
  • Britta Park Apartments, located on the 4300 block of Britta Parkway
  • Webb Rethke Apartments, located on the 3100 block of Webb Avenue and 300 and 400 blocks of Rethke Avenue
  • Truax Park Apartments, located at the 1500 block of Wright Street, Straubel Street and Straubel Court

Additionally, there would be 20 public housing properties on the west side and four on the east side that would only require a security presence if an incident is reported during the security guard’s scheduled hours. 

On the west side, the security would work 40 hours over seven days per week and would be present after CDA staff has left the property. The east side guard would work a “preferred” schedule of 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Their duties would include, among other responsibilities, patrolling the interior, exterior and parking lots of public housing sites. The guards would be paid $15 and $20 per hour depending on the level of training they have received, according to the contract.

Rakowski said staff has been working on the contract for a year and took a “step back” in the process to evaluate the CDA’s security program. She said the CDA stressed to the security company that utilizing a “community approach” is a priority.

The CDA pursued armed security guards because they are required to complete additional training than unarmed guards.

“In the security profession, that really brings you to a different level of performance,” Rakowski said. “We really want a high-level performing, dedicated security officer at each property.”

Rakowski shared anecdotal stories of CDA tenants requesting security during this past year when no contract was in place. Some Madison residents expressed the opposite view at Thursday’s meeting.

Gretchen Sager, who identified herself as a tenant of CDA property, asked the board to use the money that would be allocated for armed security toward building more affordable housing or improving existing public housing.

“We don’t want these armed guards in our homes,” Sager said. “Probably a better use of these funds would be to, at least in my building, is have the basement storage that was promised to us when I moved in or actually having a common room.”

Sheray Wallace, a director of the Meadowood Health Office in Meadowridge Library, said tenants do not need to be “under a watchful eye with a gun.”

“What people need is to be respected, to have resources,” Wallace said. “If we do anything, let’s put some resources in these communities where there is lacking, not security guards that don’t have a lot of training.”

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.