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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Community outreach at forefront of Madison violence prevention

Outreach officers, public health work to address violence through community outreach, research efforts
Abigail Leavins
Badger Herald archival photo of Madison Police Department. September 20, 2023.

CONTENT WARNING: Discussion of domestic violence. If you have experienced domestic violence, or are not sure, there are several ways to get support. View options on campus through University Health Services.

Homicides in Madison are near a record high at nine already this year, 10 being the record set in 2020 and 2021, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

The Madison Police Department has made arrests or identified suspects in eight of the nine cases this year, according to Madison Chief of Police Shon Barnes. Though homicides are high, the number of shots fired has decreased by almost 20% compared to last year.


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To help combat the high homicide rate this year, MPD is implementing stratified policing, according to Barnes. This approach uses crime analysis, problem solving and evidence-based police practices to identify problem areas, conduct community outreach and implement practical measures such as extra patrols to help address the ongoing issue.

In addition to improving street lighting and making sure public space cameras are functioning properly, the city is looking to address public safety as a community-wide initiative, according to Public Information Officer Stephanie Fryer.

The Criminal Intelligence Section of the MPD is closely monitoring “hot spot” areas with high-levels of crime, which are discussed in accountability meetings to address the issues, according to the stratified policing operations and procedures.

These measures can help address general homicides, but domestic-related homicides have increased, according to Barnes. Domestic-related homicides and violence can be difficult to prevent because risk factors exist behind closed doors. For this reason, MPD is encouraging people to reach out as soon as they can for assistance being connected to resources and easing conflicts, according to Barnes.

“We work and consult with groups like Public Health, Focused Interruption, DAIS [Domestic Abuse Intervention Services] on a regular basis,” Fryer said in an email statement to The Badger Herald. “We encourage family members and friends to reach out when they sense a problem is developing. Early intervention is helpful when it comes to preventing violence.”

Focused Interruption is a non-profit, which, in working to reduce gun violence in Madison, also connects people who have experienced violence in touch with counseling, therapy, funding and other resources. MPD regularly works with DAIS and Focused Interruption to improve the safety of the City of Madison, according to Barnes.

Organizations like Focused Interruption and DAIS help deal with the after effects of traumatic violence, but experts are also working to address violence before it occurs.

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Professor Emerit of Psychology and Gender & Women’s Studies Janet Hyde recommends legislation on the state level to help reduce gun violence. In states with stricter gun laws, the number of homicides is a lot lower per capita than in states like Wisconsin that have much looser restrictions, according to Hyde.

Some actions Hyde suggests include universal background checks and restrictions on semi-automatic weapons, with background checks at the top of the list. Another top issue identified by MPD is the amount of firearms left in unlocked cars, which leads to a lot of stolen firearms being used in various violent situations, according to Barnes.

Additionally, PHMDC and MPD have been working together to implement new initiatives focused on targeting gun violence and all violence at the source, by bringing resources to areas and individuals deemed “at risk,” according to both MPD and PHMDC.

“Exposure to neighborhood violence in childhood or adolescence has very negative psychological consequences, including higher levels of depression and anxiety,” Hyde said. “It’s also been documented to affect schoolwork.”

PHMDC is treating the violence in Madison as a complicated public health issue by looking at the root causes of violence to learn how to prevent it, according to communications coordinator Morgan Finke. As a result, they have expanded their Violence Prevention Ecosystem, which now includes the Violence Intervention Team.

The VIT identifies individuals or communities that are actively experiencing violence to support them through recovery. The VIT also facilitates productive relationships between the community and law enforcement, as evidenced by their partnership with MPD.

Community outreach is important to help combat the traumatic effects of violence. Crime can stem from the quality of a person’s life, and Madison has a number of organizations available to help people with various issues, according to Barnes.

To increase community outreach in Madison, the MPD was recently given a federal COPS grant that allowed them to hire six new community outreach officers for the city, according to Barnes. One of the new outreach officers, Victoria Wickersheim, is working to connect with her community on the east side and bring resources to an otherwise lacking area, especially focusing on youth.

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These officers are assigned to certain patrol districts where they work closely with their district’s leadership to host outreach events with youth in their respective neighborhoods, according to Fryer. They focus on supporting children who have witnessed violence or been in a traumatic event, according to Wickersheim.

“If we come into contact with any youth that have experienced traumatic response from that incident, we will find resources that our city provides and give them to that family so they’re able to try and jump in front of…this trauma instead of letting it build over the years,” Wickersheim said.

A few days per week, Wickersheim visits The Meadowlands Apartments and Harmony at Grandview Commons Apartments on the east side of Madison to spend time with the children there. The areas that community outreach officers visit often lack community centers, according to Wickersheim.

The Madison Public Library’s Dream Bus — which offers mobile library services — visited Harmony with Officer Wickersheim, to help 17 children sign up for a library card. The Dream Bus will now visit the Harmony apartments every Thursday.

In addition to connecting with Madison youth, Wickersheim speaks to parents and adults to build relationships with them and their children. While these relationships were tentative at first, parents have now come to trust community outreach officers to engage positively with their children, according to Wickersheim.

This small change is an indication that work is being done in the community through these relationships, Wickersheim said. Residents are starting to reach out and ask for her to get involved in various other groups in the community.

“I know so many people are taught not to talk to cops, not to give us the information, but we really need to work as a team and as one community together…not have the community versus cop mentality, but let us all work together so we can make safer neighborhoods for everybody,” Wickersheim said.

Resources regarding domestic violence:

UHS Survivor Services: [email protected], 608-265-5600 ext 3. Self schedule using Starfish app:

Dean of Students Office:

Restraining Order and Survivor Advocacy Clinic:, 608-263-9574, [email protected] or request an appointment

Sexual Misconduct Resource and Response Program:

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services: 1-800-799-SAFE or text “START” to 88788

RCC Sexual Violence Resource Center: 608-251-7273

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