In response to the drastic rise in crime on and around the University of Wisconsin campus last spring and this fall, the UW Greek system plans to kick off a neighborhood watch program Friday.
The Greek system collaborated with the Madison Police Department to develop the program, which involves fraternity and sorority houses volunteering to patrol Langdon Street in large groups between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
"I think just the fact that we have a presence out there … really promotes a positive and safe environment for the members of our community," Panhellenic Association President Sarah Groninger said.
Groninger added the houses will break up into groups of 20 or 25 people to patrol the street and each group will work in one-hour shifts.
With the large groups, Groninger said, the students will feel safe walking up and down Langdon Street weekend nights.
Also, nights when sororities are signed up to patrol, fraternity members might patrol with the sorority groups so the women do not have to be by themselves.
Langdon Street police officer Tony Fiore said most neighborhood watch programs ask a small group of people to devote a large amount of time to patrolling, but the Langdon Street neighborhood watch asks a large group of people to devote a relatively small amount of time.
Fiore said his policing experience has taught him that many of the assaults happen because perpetrators are able to move around in "relative anonymity" on Langdon Street Friday and Saturday nights.
"If we have groups of 10, 15, 20 people on Langdon on a Friday, it's going to be pretty hard to remain anonymous or hide in the shadows," Fiore said. "Especially when you know there's a relatively large group of sober people who are there specifically looking out for their neighbors."
Pi Kappa Alpha President Drew Wilert said the UW Greek system and the MPD have been talking about a way to increase safety on Langdon Street for a long time, but the idea of a neighborhood watch came to fruition just last week.
Fiore, in particular, has helped the students develop the program and has made sure they were creating a program that is "actually going to work."
Wilert said three or four Greek houses have already signed up for patrolling, and five or six others have expressed interest.
"It's been really cool to see how excited members are to give up a night of drinking just to make this work," he said.
UW junior and Delta Gamma sorority member Leslie Peltason said she supports the neighborhood watch program because it is "very scary" to be a girl walking on Langdon Street at night.
Peltason added she does not know how effective the program will be, but said it is definitely a step in the right direction.
"Anything is going to be more effective than what's going on right now because there is only so much Langdon cops can do," Peltason said.
Fiore said the MPD would supply the students with flashlights and reflective armbands so they will be identifiable while patrolling.
Despite the MPD's contributions, Fiore said, he hopes the Greek system "takes ownership" of the program.
"My hope is that it becomes a standard program — that it would be something that the Greek system would really keep alive," Fiore said. "Hopefully the police department can become more of a support role and kind of an advisory, and help them out when they need it."