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North Side homicide

Madison police investigate a fatal shooting on West Karstens Drive on Madison's North Side in July 2017. 

STEVE APPS, STATE JOURNAL

Nearly a year after a homicide on the north side, Madison Police Department neighborhood officer Alex Nieves-Reyes is watching the effects of trauma unfold in the lives of youth in the neighborhood.

“We are chasing after these kids because they are acting out and exhibiting trauma,” Nieves-Reyes said. “They’re kids that are hurting, and we need to address these issues.”

The frequency of high profile violent incidents can traumatize not just those who witness them but also have wider-reaching effects on community members.

At the end of March, a near homicide occurred on the 500 block of Northport Drive. Shots were fired on the 3800 block of School Road April 5, and shots fired on Blaine Drive April 12 caused a lockdown at Mendota Elementary School.

Neighborhood Resource Officer David Dexheimer said these events occurred either in the presence of or in close proximity to many youth.   

“The victims of this gun violence are the most obvious victims,” Dexheimer said. But he said, “there’s all that collateral damage that happens, that secondary trauma.”

Nieves-Reyes and Dexheimer are organizing a peace march and event focused on health and wellness to provide an outlet for youth and their families to address the secondary effects of trauma related to violence.

“We are trying to create a new world where we are trauma-informed, but we need to address those traumas earlier in life,” Nieves-Reyes said.

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Residents are invited to walk, march or ride to the Warner Park Community Center at 3 p.m. on Thursday. At the event, there will be opportunities for the youth to participate in art therapy, Tae Kwan Do and a mindfulness workshop.

“We don’t address the mind, and that’s what needs healing,” Nieves-Reyes said. “We’re going to show or offer different ways where they can express themselves.”

Parents will have an opportunity to meet people from area service providers in a casual setting. Free refreshments are available at the event, which ends at 6 p.m.

Nieves-Reyes hopes people leave the event knowing that parents and children have resources they can access. She wants people to know that the violence they witness or are affected by is not normal.

“We can come together, and we can do something,” Nieves-Reyes said.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.