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Madison Community Development Authority board votes to hire armed security guards

Madison Community Development Authority board votes to hire armed security guards

CDA Romnes apartments (copy)

Madison's Community Development Authority approved signing a contract with a security company for armed guards.

After a year without any security presence, Madison’s Community Development Authority will hire armed security guards to patrol five properties daily.

On a 3-2 vote Thursday, the CDA Board authorized signing a contract with National Security and Investigations for two armed security guards who would patrol three west and two east side properties. Deputy Director Deborah Rakowski said the CDA aims to engage and build relationships with residents.

“Our program really aims at protecting our residents, our staff and property,” Rakowski said.

Board members voting against the contract — Ald. Tag Evers, District 13, and Kelda Roys — acknowledged that all residents should feel safe in their homes but said that adding guns to the situation was not the solution.

“I am concerned that we’re suggesting that the threat of lethal force is required to solve problems and that the threat of lethal force is what makes a security officer safe,” Evers said.

Rakowski said armed security guards receive higher levels of training and that the CDA plans to play a role in training the personnel, including facilitating meet-and-greet sessions with the guards.

Under the contract, the security guards would patrol the following properties on a daily basis:

  • 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

The guards would also respond to any reported incidents at an additional 20 public housing properties on the west side and four on the east side. Their duties would include, among other responsibilities, patrolling the interior, exterior and parking lots of public housing sites.

On the west side, the security guard would work 40 hours over seven days per week and would be present after CDA staff has left the properties. 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.

The guards would be paid $15 and $20 per hour depending on the level of training they have received, according to the contract. The contract is for one year with the option to renew four times.

The city has had armed security in place at some CDA housing sites for the past 25 years but has been operating without a contract in place in place because the previous security company CDA worked with dissolved.

Board members delayed making a decision last December in order to gather more information from residents. A survey of 538 households with a 28% response rate found that half of survey takers felt less safe due to a lack of security presence over the past year.

Tammy Seekings, a resident of Traux Apartments since 2001, said she felt more comfortable living at Truax when she was able to call a security guard, especially when situations occurred at night when the CDA office is closed.

“At this point all of CDA residents are at risk,” Seekings said. “If we had security here, we would feel better about our situations.”

Madison Police Department data show there were 973 situations in which a police officers responded to Baird Fisher, Britta Park, Romnes, Truax or Webb Rethke apartments in 2019. Of these, about 380 calls were for issues including 911 abandoned calls, parking complaints and 911 misdials.

“There were very, very few incidents of weapons violations and anything that seemed to be violent on any of our CDA properties,” Evers said. “We’re talking about an extreme situation that, again, has the potential of putting people at risk.”

According to the calls for service data, there were six weapons offense incidents in 2019 at the studied properties.

Those in support of armed guards say the possession of a weapon has an effect on negative behavior at CDA properties. CDA board member Claude Gilmore said unarmed security officers would be at a “disadvantage” in a situation involving weapons.

MPD Officer Marcus Robbins, a neighborhood officer in the east district, said the CDA should give the security guards the “best chance of success.”

“Armed security guards would be more effective in their role as a security guard,” Robbins said.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. 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.