Last year, Madison Police Department restricted seven bars near the University of Wisconsin from admitting new customers after 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights in attempts to reduce crime. Madison officials are now considering requiring nine other establishments to follow the same rule, starting July 1.
For many years, there has been an increasing amount of violent crimes in the nightlife scene of downtown Madison, Jason Freedman, captain of police for MPD’s Central District, said.
There has been an ongoing effort to deter the late-night crimes in downtown Madison, Freedman said. About twelve years ago, MPD launched the Downtown Safety Initiative in response to the violent crimes that were taking place in the area on weekend nights. The project dedicated as many as 15 additional officers to work weekend nights to address the baseline of violence.
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But several years ago, MPD started seeing additional concerning behavior patterns, spikes in violent crimes, more serious violent crimes, weapons being involved and known or affiliated gang members coming downtown with a frequency they had not seen before, Freedman said.
MPD began implementing strategies to combat the crime, such as improving lighting, changes in parking, adding new security cameras and, in partnership with the Alcohol License Review Committee, opposing any increase in capacity by any bar or establishment in the downtown areas.
Freedman said this is when they began exploring the idea of prohibiting some bars downtown from allowing any new customers in after 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
The initial focus group of bars were on the 500 to 600 block of State Street, the 400 block of Frances Street, and the 600 block of University Avenue.
At first, some of the bars resisted the new rule, but most of them have not seen any negative impacts. Some have even said it seems to have had a positive effect, Freedman said.
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“It’s been our belief that this has had a positive impact,” Freedman said.
MPD is now requesting that the ALRC extend the rule into the licensing conditions of an additional nine establishments. The focus group of bars will now extend onto Lake Street, Langdon Street and further up State Street.
“The goal of this is to discourage people from coming downtown after 1:30 a.m. because they won’t be able to get into these bars, and to encourage people when they leave the bar towards bar close, since they won’t be able to get into a different bar, to just go home,” Freedman said. “The data is compelling that if you have fewer intoxicated people, the likelihood of violence is reduced and that is the goal.”