The Madison Police Department is seeking a number of changes to public safety, including the addition of new law enforcement positions.
The department is looking to add three new police officers, two new positions in their Special Victims Unit and a civilian human resources manager to free up a detective to work on MPD’s human trafficking initiative.
These changes are in response to an uptick in crimes in the city, including shots fired, minors stealing cars and other crimes, and the growing problem of human trafficking, according to Wisconsin State Journal.
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Marc Lovicott, University of Wisconsin Police Department director of communications, said there has not been much change in crime on campus, so most — if not all — of the increase in the crime rate is happening in other parts of the city.
Lovicott also said UWPD is not facing the same staffing concerns as MPD.
“I think we are adequately staffed. Of course, any police agency will tell you, ‘We would like to hire more police officers,’ — and certainly that is the case with us,” Lovicott said. “We would love to hire more police officers, but I do not think it is fair to say we are stretched thin by any means.”
Mike Koval, MPD chief of police, said he believes the community is lacking in awareness of the issue.
Koval said human trafficking has probably been allowed to exist in the area for some time, but the city is now gaining a better understanding of how it presents itself in a variety of contexts.
Koval said people often question why he is inclined to update his blog with posts about runaway juveniles. Having studied the Dallas model on high-risk victims, Koval said the reality behind the matter is that a lot of runaways are fleeing away from something or someone. If someone has been reported missing four or five times a year, that can indicate a vulnerable victim for human trafficking if they are not already being impacted by it.
“I think it has been with us for a while, but we are only just now coming to this epiphany moment where we recognize the width and breadth of the problem,” Koval said.
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Koval also said human trafficking can be effective as a criminal business, citing how in instances of drug sales, drug dealers constantly have to get product from a variety of sources, distribute it and then get more after the fact. This is a tedious process and hinders the flow of business, but Koval said it is not the case with human trafficking. A human asset is essentially recyclable and can be used over and over again, making human capital more valuable from a business standpoint.
Koval said MPD is now gaining access to more software that allows them to understand the depth of this issue. Internet Crimes Against Children, a monitor for Wisconsin run by the Department of Justice, said 22 percent of tips received traced back to IP addresses from Madison.
MPD recently approved a civilian HR manager to free up a detective to work on the human trafficking initiative. This was one of Koval’s only budgetary requests to be approved.
Alder Mike Verveer, District 4, referenced a ten-year-old study from Etico Solutions, which assessed the needs of MPD. Some of the suggestions the study made have been translated into tangible parts of Madison student life, such as the Downtown Safety Initiative, which puts more officers in the downtown area on weekends and is responsible for increased police presence around the bar scene.
According to the Etico study, MPD was actually 16 officers short, a point which Koval cited at the 2019 budget hearing meeting. Koval only requested three in spite of this suggestion, yet was only granted one.
Koval said the “leanness” of the 2019 budget makes it difficult to accommodate the need for more officers.
“I am convinced that the police do need additional resources in patrol to keep up with the growing population in Madison and the fairly indisputable increase in police calls for service,” Verveer said.