A federally funded effort to reduce crime in several southwest side neighborhoods is expected to launch soon.
In November, the City Council approved acceptance of $155,522 to build a plan for neighborhood crime reduction in Madison’s Raymond Road Corridor, which includes the Theresa Terrace, Balsam-Russett, Meadowood, Greentree, Orchard Ridge and Prairie Hills neighborhoods.
Project coordinators say they hope to have staff on board by next month.
“The purpose of the initiative is to engage residents in the southwest side, both to address public safety issues and to work on continued revitalization,” said Marianne Morton, executive director of Common Wealth, which is partnering with the Madison Police Department on the project.
The federal money is from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program, a part of the Obama administration’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, which launched in 2012.
Morton said the Raymond Road Corridor was chosen after evaluating neighborhood crime data across Madison.
“This neighborhood has definitely been the most active and in need of resources in the city over the last three years,” said MPD Lt. Mike Hanson, who is heavily involved in the Byrne project. “There are predominantly hard working, good natured citizens living in these neighborhoods. The neighborhood, though, is tainted by some bad apples as far as gang members and violent people that need to be addressed.”
“Each of these neighborhoods have have shots fired calls for service more than other neighborhoods have,” he added. “That creates a lot of fear in the neighborhoods.”
Hanson said MPD has been increasing police coverage of the area in recent years. The department added a neighborhood officer to the Balsam-Russett neighborhood in 2015.
The first stage of Byrne grants support research and planning, enabling outreach and assessment of neighborhoods, to determine the most effective means of decreasing crime. After the 18-month planning and assessment stage, grant recipients can apply for up to $1 million in additional funding from the federal government.
“There’s plenty of excitement in the neighborhood, and we’re glad because the first step is seeking community involvement,” said Hanson.
However, Hanson was quick to warn residents not to expect too much from this stage of the Byrne grant process.
“As much as it’s fun to see the excitement in the neighborhood, the reality is it’s a lot of research, a lot of meetings and no one in the neighborhood is going to see a tangible result,” he said.
Common Wealth, a community development organization in Madison for nearly 40 years, posted a job listing for the initiative’s project manager earlier this month.
Morton said the organization hopes to complete the hiring process for that position by early to mid-February.
The project manager will work closely with Dr. Kimberly Hassell, a criminal justice associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Hassell will lead the research and data analysis elements of the project.
Hassell has worked on a similar project in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee received its Byrne grant in 2013 and targeted resources to the city’s Washington Park neighborhood. According to a 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Justice, crime dropped about 24 percent in neighborhood’s “hot spots” and 11 percent in the neighborhood as a whole in the year after the grant was received.
There will be no full-time staff dedicated to the Madison project, aside from the project manager, but a 10 to 15-member steering committee will be appointed to provide support and oversight.
Morton said appointments are still being considered for the committee.
“We view that as an important body, so we want to make sure we get that right,” she said.
Morton said she is optimistic about harnessing existing neighborhood initiatives to augment Byrne efforts.
“My feeling is there’s a lot of really incredible assets already in the community,” she said. “It’s not starting from scratch, there’s a lot of great stuff already happening.”
Hanson said the breadth and depth of community efforts could also be a challenge.
“At least from the city’s perspective, there are an enormous amount of city dollars trying to do work in southwest Madison,” Hanson said. “Our message can’t be lost, our efforts can’t be watered down. This grant could really benefit the city.”