As one part of a new joint initiative rolling out next month that is aimed at decreasing violence and criminal activity on Madison city buses, police officers will begin riding some daily Metro routes.

Madison Police Department officers will now be a visible presence on certain bus routes as a result of a $30,000 increase in the department’s 2012 funding, MPD spokesperson Joel DeSpain said. 

With the Southwest Safety Initiative, MPD said they plan to target areas with frequent problems and address these issues in a variety of ways, with officers riding buses encompassing one area of focus, Ald. Lisa Subeck, District 1, said.

“The goal is to change the behavior on buses,” Subeck said. “Officers will set expectations of behavior, and if something does occur, the officer can intervene.”

The plan, which was developed following increased problems such as fights and inappropriate behavior, particularly among teenagers and young adults on certain after-school routes, hopes to allow for prevention of problems and intervention, Subeck said. 

The police presence on bus routes involves cooperation between MPD, Madison Metro Transit buses and several city officials, Mick Rusch, Metro Transit spokesperson, said.

Rusch, who describes Metro Transit’s relationship with MPD as very positive, says this is the next step in what they have already been doing to ensure customer service and safety.

Officers have already been located at certain transfer points for the buses since 2009, which has led to decreased calls and incidents at those locations, a trend Metro Transit hopes will continue with the upcoming changes, Rusch said. 

Subeck thinks this will be more effective in solving problems because a uniformed officer “sets a tone,” and problems that do arise will be solved without an officer having to be called or drive to the location that passengers are let out at, which is where the violence tends to occur.

“We’re very excited to have the program,” Rusch said. “We think our employees [and the public] will be happy about it. One of our top incidents being reported on the buses right now is disruptive behavior or vulgar language.” 

Although the funding covers the entire year, the plan is to have officers ride only until October, ensuring their involvement during the six-to-eight months of warm weather where spikes in violence generally occur, Subeck said. 

The $30,000 budget increase, however, isn’t just to cover officer wages during these bus rides but is one piece of a broader safety initiative, Subeck said.

Other ways the Southwest Safety Initiative hopes to address safety concerns is through outreach to poorer neighborhoods, targeted prevention with youth, interactions with landlords and a stronger presence overall, Subeck said. 

Not all the details have been determined regarding officers riding the Metro buses; some of the plan is still “fluid,” DeSpain said. 

Commuters who frequent the bus routes need not be concerned of other changes when officers finally do begin riding along, Rusch said, as all else will remain “business as usual.”