The Madison Police Department reported a decrease in crime this summer, from May 24 to Aug. 16, after implementing numerous crime-prevention strategies.
Crime declined in all targeted areas except for car theft, disorderly conduct and simple assaults in that time period, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
To accomplish this, MPD Chief of Police Shon Barnes said MPD instructed each district to identify three crimes they expected to see a rise in and then to develop strategies, problem-solving techniques and accountability metrics for each of those crimes.
According to Barnes, MPD also used problem-oriented policing, which involves scanning a specific crime problem, analyzing that problem, designing a response, then creating an assessment. One of the most successful strategies MPD used was a focus on community engagement, Barnes said.
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“It’s really all about relationships and community building,” Barnes said. “And when I say community, the police are part of that too. When I say community members, I’m talking about the police, I’m talking about people who don’t wear the badge, I’m talking about elected officials, I’m talking about the media. My version of community consensus building is that we all are working towards the good of Madison, not just one group.”
Assistant Chief of Police Brian Austin said MPD also focused on a theory called the Koper Curve. According to the Koper Curve theory, random police presence in crime hot spots for 11-15 minutes and community engagement in those areas will reduce crime and increase community trust.
The Koper Curve theory builds community bonding between everyone from neighbors to police officers. This brings the community together and makes MPD more visible within Madison hotspots, Austin said.
“This was a great opportunity for us to get back out into the neighborhoods, both with our squad patrol and foot patrol, talk to residents and at the same time show a visible presence,” Austin said. “That alone I think helps deter behavior we would like to dissuade.”
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Chief Barnes said moving forward, MPD will continue to use these successful strategies, while also continuing to focus on the crimes that have the greatest impact on the Madison communities and residents.
City of Madison District 8 Alderperson Juliana Bennett said crime prevention strategies within MPD are a step in the right direction for the city.
“Crime prevention strategies are important in Madison and really any city in the U.S. because it comes down to responding to community needs and asking the question, ‘Why are people committing crimes in the first place?’” Bennett said.
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Bennett said MPD still has work to do within Madison’s communities of color. She said MPD must evaluate the barriers specific Madison communities face and ensure people’s basic needs are being met in order to help minimize crime.
Bennett said MPD can accomplish this by collaborating with community organizations and continuing to value community engagement and partnerships.
“Addressing these disparities really comes down to a couple of things — responding to the actual needs of the communities, providing services for these folks and the Madison Police Department partnering with community organizations and nonprofits,” Bennett said.
According to Bennett, the MPD budget should reflect all the needs of the community — one of the most pressing needs in District 8 is mental health.
MPD recently launched Madison Community Alternative Response Emergency Services, also known as Madison CARES, Sept. 1, 2021. Madison CARES is a program for Madison residents experiencing behavioral health crises, according to MPD. The program sends a community paramedic and a Journey Mental Health Crisis worker to respond to nonviolent behavioral health emergencies, rather than police officers, MPD said.
“CARES is where we need to start moving funds to support community needs, instead of just adding more cops and hoping that somehow crime decreases,” Bennett said. “Police officers who don’t have extensive training in mental health aren’t the best people to send to these calls. People that are trained mental health providers can respond to those calls.”
Gender Justice Director at Freedom Inc. Jessica Williams said prevention strategies that address the needs of families and residents who are hit hardest in the city are the same strategies that will prevent and reduce crime in Madison.
Lack of housing and income disparity are issues that will lead to an increase in crime, Williams said. Many Madison residents are struggling to meet the needs of themselves and their families, and crime prevention starts with addressing those struggles.
“Crime prevention is so important because so many people are struggling in so many different ways right now and there are just so many financial factors that are impacting Madison residents and Madison families,” Williams said.
Williams also said MPD has to take steps in acknowledging systemic issues that play a role within policing in Madison. Realizing biases and understanding the history of policing in the U.S. is where transformation occurs, she said.
Austin said MPD was ahead of the curve with instituting implicit bias training, having done so for at least five years now. Chief Barnes said MPD will continue expanding their training but doing so requires certain financial needs.
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City of Madison District 10 Alderperson Yannette Figueroa Cole said understanding how MPD spends their budget and how successful each of their resources is should play an important part in developing crime-prevention strategies.
In addition to analyzing the effectiveness of the MPD budget, Cole said she believes the best way to reduce the amount of crime in Madison is to maximize collaboration and efforts between agencies across the city.
“I really want to maximize the importance of collaboration with all the agencies in the city,” Cole said. “We need to do a better job of acknowledging that the police department does too much and we should be working collaboratively to solve some of these issues.”