Public safety and quality of life are critically linked components of any community. An increase in crime and negative behaviors often comes with municipal growth. It is important for all citizens to express their feelings about these things. No one should live in fear as growth and the resultant changes occur.
Today in Madison we have witnessed significant increases in crimes that can lead to injury and even death. Two specific examples are the number of shots-fired calls and many drug overdoses. Gang violence and other violence-related issues on or near school properties have also threatened lives. These, along with a significant number of armed robberies and a variety of assaults, have driven up the daily number of calls for service to about 500 in every 24-hour period, according to Madison Police Chief Mike Koval's blog. These calls don’t include routine traffic calls and other minor calls for service.
Many times the volume and severity of calls in certain time periods create a situation where the Madison Police Department must go to a “Priority Only Calls” response mode. Non-life-threatening incidents and calls related to property damage issues have to wait until the “Priority Only” situation subsides. During these times, many Madison residents have felt helpless since their calls were not addressed promptly.
The “shots fired” or, as police describe them, “weapons violations,” are particularly concerning, as stray bullets have hit non-targeted cars with people inside and public and residential properties, also with innocent persons inside or nearby. Even public transportation, like buses, have experienced shots-fired incidents both inside and outside with innocents in the line of fire. The question isn’t if one of these incidents will produce a debilitating injury or death, but rather when that will occur. I for one hope that it never happens, but it certainly could!
Madison and Dane County are two of the fastest-growing areas in Wisconsin. As Madison continues to annex more of the town of Madison, both its population and the square miles of land mass increase, putting greater burden on law enforcement. Yet Madison has fewer law enforcement officers per thousand of population than comparable cities our size.
Four comparable cities have a ratio of at least two officers for every thousand people. Those cities are: St. Paul, Minnesota; Des Moines, Iowa; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Boise, Idaho. Many of those have 2.0 to 2.7 officers per 1,000 people. Madison is at 1.9, which is 27 officers short of the minimum 2.0 ratio of comparable cities. Milwaukee has a 3.1 officers per 1,000 ratio.
It is up to the citizens of Madison who are concerned about increasing crime attacks on our public safety and declining quality of life to demand changes from our elected officials! Adding police is certainly not the total answer, but if improvements are to be made, adding officers at all levels up to 2.0 to increase community policing and other preventive and investigatory functions should be implemented and maintained in the future.
Dave Glomp is a Meadowood Neighborhood police co-liaison and president of Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods in Dane County. The data in this column come from the FBI, Madison Police Department, and Etico, a police manpower study organization.
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