Madison Police Department Chief Mike Koval announced an intensified enforcement effort Thursday on the four or five dozen people that are “holding a city of a quarter of a million hostage to our fears.”
On his blog, he said the department will use more focused deterrence and arrest initiatives to vet the most “egregious offenders and gang members” and get a handle on the violence Madison has experienced this summer.
“Enough is enough,” Koval said in the post. “The City we are all committed to, the place where we live, go to school, go to worship, go to shop, and raise our kids, is worthy of fighting for.”
Through Aug. 6, the MPD recorded 124 “shots fired” calls, which is a 75 percent increase from 2016. The city has also had 10 homicides this year, which is the same number as the record set in 2008.
“If left unchecked, this current malaise we are collectively experiencing as a community can leave us numb and have us reeling wondering whether Madison has reached a point of no return?” Koval said.
Koval said many of the same names surface each time there is a serious shooting or homicide. Many also have ties to gangs, and the MPD has knowledge that the individuals have access to guns, have threatened to use guns or associate with people who commit gun crimes.
While the MPD may not have enough evidence to charge these individuals with a specific “shots fired” call or homicide, he said there is probable cause to arrest for other offenses as may are wanted for various crimes or have holds entered by the Department of Corrections.
“A resounding message must be sent in clear and unequivocal terms: we know who you are — your ability to stay anonymous is no longer a luxury you can rely on and we are holding you accountable for your actions,” Koval said.
Focused Interruption Coalition member Caliph Muab’el said he thought the chief’s focus is very narrow. Muab’el believes much of the violence in the community is stemming from the heroin epidemic — with arguments over drugs and money turning fatal — and not from gang activity.
“We have to pay attention to the bigger picture,” Muab’el said. “I don’t think it’s going to do anything in the short or long term.”
The Focused Interruption Coalition is a grassroots community group focused on violence prevention efforts. The coalition is currently working to implement the first stages of a 15-point plan, which includes peer mentoring and support programs.
Muab’el agreed with the chief’s comments about community engagement and providing alternatives to arrests but overall felt the message from the chief’s blog was too limited.
“As long as we have this divide and conquer mechanism in place we’re never going to get anywhere in the future as far as progressive,” Muab’el said.
Koval added that the initiative is not meant to create a “blue blanket” that will “stop/ticket/arrest anything that looks remotely suspicious.” He also said the effort will not be a pretext for profiling.