The Madison Police Department and Mifflin neighborhood residents again pushed for what they said were much needed changes to the annual Mifflin Street Block Party at a city meeting Thursday night.
The Public Safety Review Committee convened Thursday for city reports from MPD and the Madison Fire Department, which presented new developments for the block party, as well as city planning and budgeting.
Capt. Carl Gloede presented the MPD perspective on the Mifflin Street Block Party, emphasizing the event’s history and consequent inevitability. According to Gloede, MPD’s biggest struggle in preparing for Mifflin is fighting the history.
“There are ways to have a safe event,” Gloede said. “But it’s just getting past the legend and mystique of Mifflin Street.”
Other than “hopes for rain” on May 5 and an altogether end to Mifflin, MPD holds more realistic hopes to eventually have a relocation of the Mifflin Street Block Party, Gloede said.
According to Gloede, the location of the party cannot adequately support the number of attendees. As the Mifflin Block Party takes place in a neighborhood setting, it is constitutionally not an event zone, Gloede said, because people cannot be prevented from getting to their home dwellings.
Students have expressed interest in limiting the Mifflin Street Block Party to only University of Wisconsin students, but Gloede said doing so would be nearly impossible given the nature of the event’s environment.
Gloede also debriefed a program in which Mifflin residents will be able to contact MPD captains in case a house party has gotten out of hand.
“They can call to say we tried, we failed, help us,” Gloede said. “They don’t have total amnesty in terms of criminal acts, and the expectation is that they will not have another party in that house.”
According to Gloede, efforts in the past three years to steer the block party into something other than a drinking event have failed, forcing the city to have this year’s event proceed with no organized entertainment and no pre-emptive street closures.
Still, the event is bringing in an increased number of law enforcement officers and consequential overtime, making the Mifflin Street Block Party more expensive this year from the city’s perspective, Gloede said. UW Police will also not be assisting MPD, citing campus responsibilities, but officers from the Dane County Sheriff’s Office will be present.
Committee member Merrilee Pickett expressed frustration with the party as whole because of the amount of energy and work necessary for the preparation.
“As a taxpayer, as a member of the Public Safety Review Committee, the amount of law enforcement and energy going into this event seems a little out of balance to me,” Pickett said. “I am amazed.”
Gloede agreed with Pickett, noting that the time, energy and money spent on this “drinking event” could be spent in other areas of need. However, the student input and effort has been helpful and will hopefully turn the event in a new direction, Gloede said.
MPD Capt. Vic Wahl also reported on new plans to increase overtime budgeting for Madison. According to Wahl, the goal is to decrease crime, decrease perceptions of crime and address quality of life issues.
The increased budget will go toward increasing police visibility among the youth, Wahl said. According to Wahl, it is a handful of people that cause a great proportion of the disorder, such as Madison’s recent slew of fights involving juvenile girls.