Madison City Council President Marsha Rummel recently approached the council members saying she was “thinking deeply about next steps to combat the gun violence and homicide epidemic we are facing as I am sure you are too. I don't want to reinvent the wheel but I want to identify any gaps in our efforts.
”The city has provided resources for programs and initiatives to address poverty, opportunities for youth employment, affordable housing and community building/engagement and more. I am aware of several but not all projects and future plans so I seek your knowledge of what you think works. I would like to compile a list of these initiatives (including MMSD, NGO programs, etc). As I study the public health epidemic we are facing, I want to understand if the programs we are funding reflect trauma informed care."
I am grateful that the council president solicited our input on this crisis. I have been hearing from many groups and individuals who have shared their dismay and concerns on the state of safety and security in Madison, as well as expressing their opinions and suggestions on ending the violence and homicides. I will be holding a community listening session soon to get input and suggestions from west side residents, businesses, and property owners on safety, security and the violence facing our city.
I have also been thinking about possible next steps to combat the gun violence and homicide epidemic we are facing. I am aware that the city has expended considerable resources on programs and initiatives to address some of the root causes of violence, including: poverty, opportunities for youth employment, affordable housing, community building/engagement and more. I also believe that the Rapid Intervention Team, Place Making, and other new initiatives will help. I am a supporter of the programs to address the root causes of violence, and I have championed affordable housing programs throughout the city.
I have faith that the programs to address the root causes of violence will ultimately be successful, but I also feel that these types of programs will not be successful in stopping the violence that is occurring now. Furthermore, I do not believe that these types of programs will ever be fully capable of preventing or stopping this type of violence. I think these crimes are being committed by a small subset of our community and some outside the community. These are individuals who have little or no regard for human life — individuals who settle disputes with lethal force. The groups and individuals from this small subset continue to commit these crimes because they think that they can get away with them. There is very limited cooperation from witnesses, suspects, and victims. Without witnesses or corroborating evidence, investigations are long and difficult.
We are experiencing a dramatic surge in these violent crimes, and if we do not act swiftly to end this violence, it will continue to increase in the manner it has this year. I am convinced that the foundation of stopping this cycle of violence is a strong Madison Police Department that is trained, equipped and empowered to protect public safety, and to end the threats to our community.
The Police Department and its officers are our last line of defense in the public safety spectrum. When everything else fails, and there is a crisis (weapons offense, assaults, homicides), we call the police to end the threat. About 90 percent of all police actions are the result of a call for service from an individual. The police are called when something terrible has happened, or could happen because reasonable efforts have not resolved the problem. MPD officers are trained to "end the threat," no matter what it is, or where it is.
I believe that the next steps to "combat the gun violence and homicide epidemic" are already available to us, and they are staring us in the face. We have the basic tools to address the violence, and end the threats, but we have not used them. Here is my prioritized list of suggested actions and programs:
• Adopt and implement reasonable surveillance programs.
• Install surveillance cameras on key public utility poles at strategic intersections in targeted hot spots.
• Initiate a body-worn camera pilot project ASAP.
• Request or compel building and site surveillance systems be installed and maintained at 24-hour convenience stores.
• Increase police staffing levels to the suggested levels in the 2016 report: Add 27 officers in 2018.
• Increase (real) neighborhood policing in targeted hot spots — more patrol officers and neighborhood officers on duty where it counts.
• Uniformly enforce criminal and civil laws throughout the city, and in all neighborhoods and public schools.
• Make a commitment to provide affordable housing and support services to formerly incarcerated individuals.
I hope that Ald. Rummel and the majority on the council consider my suggestions. I think that these are reasonable and feasible solutions to the problems facing our community at this time. I feel that if we do not take the steps necessary to face the severity of the threats to our community, we will continue to see an increase in violence and homicides. If we continue to only address the root cause of violence, and not the violent acts and behavior, we are sending a message that we are not serious about ending the threat to our community.
Ald. Paul Skidmore represents the 9th District on the Madison City Council.
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