Over the last year, gun violence grew steadily and continues to persist in Madison. The Madison Police Department needs to address this issue if we want that to change.
Strolling down State Street and through Capitol Square allows residents to experience a city lifestyle while the sunsets over Lake Mendota give the opportunity to relax by the Memorial Union Terrace. Though Madison can be a place for families to build a strong foundation, it is also a city where violence remains prevalent.
Madison has a 94% higher crime rate than the other cities in Wisconsin. The increase in gunfire and carjackings in Madison does not create an atmosphere where college students can thrive academically and socially.
But the solutions to these recurring issues are complicated. Still, more attention needs to be brought to the situation for positive change to happen. Not only does Madison need attention from its leaders, but it also requires action from its citizens.
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When innocent people are getting killed, becoming numb to violence and death is not an option. Even during the pandemic, homicides in Madison and Sun Prairie nearly tripled from four to 11. Between 2019 and 2020, shots fired increased from 144 to 250. Stolen vehicles increased 16% to 744 and weapon violations jumped 18% to 191.
Even though Madison is ranked as one of the safest cities in the nation, there is still a prevalent rate of gun violence and the Dane County area continues to head down a dark path that recent events reflect.
Last month, police charged a 15-year-old Fitchburg boy with killing his 11-year-old sister. Officers from the Fitchburg Police Department said the boy has been booked for alleged homicide by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon.
Surprisingly, that wasn’t the only instance of gun violence that month. The day before, the Fitchburg Police Department arrested a 26-year-old man in Madison after being connected with the attempted homicide of a 41-year-old Fitchburg man.
In this situation, defunding the police isn’t the answer and Wisconsin communities understand that. Dane County does not need fewer law enforcement personnel. Instead, they should institute better training programs for officers to correctly deescalate firearm situations and avoid unfair bias by connecting more with citizens.
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Madison police officers have a history of scrambled responses to arrest situations. For example, two weeks ago, MPD officer Keith Brown fired a shot into a fellow officer while trying to shoot a suspect they were trying to arrest.
Minimal training has consequences for both citizens — like Katoine Richardson, who was arrested amid the friendly-fire shooting — and officers caught up in the scuffle. Gun violence reaches all parts of a community and creating a more stable police department helps control this problem.
Besides creating better training programs, Madison and Dane County should take a mental health approach to gun violence to figure out why people act out, so they can get the correct treatment.
Police departments can do this by using more background data and coordinating with social service providers to try and prevent violence. The social providers will be able to connect with the local school districts to offer young people disconnected from school ways to better themselves mentally and physically to avoid a darker path.
As a community, Madison needs to do more to reach out to young people going through trauma. The city can do this by enlisting ex-offenders who have turned their lives around to diffuse conflict and steer people back to civil society.
Gun restrictions are essential for Wisconsin if we want to reduce gun violence in major cities. Wisconsin can do this by instituting background checks on all gun sales to disarm unsolicited violence.
Moreover, Madison has a considerable homelessness problem, as an estimated 4,515 people experience homelessness on any given day. Since living on the streets can lead to desperate and dangerous decisions, providing resources for people experiencing homelessness could play a role in reducing gun violence in Madison.
Perpetrators of gun violence with intentions to hurt innocent people should be arrested immediately. To ensure a reduction in gun violence, judges should make rehabilitation mandatory so offenders will be able to get back on their feet once released.
Gun violence continues to be a problem around the country. To solve this cultural issue, the local government needs to get ahead of the situation by helping people understand that problems can be solved through non-violent means.
The city of Madison has done a solid job of calling on the community to help promote a safer environment. By making sure law enforcement teams up with the local community and changes their relationship with citizens, gun violence in Madison could de-escalate.
Ishaan Chadha ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in journalism.