With the harsh lessons of the pandemic and the protests, Madison seeks to forge the next Downtown | Local government
Public safety is essential
The success of the next downtown area depends to a large extent on how safe it is – or how people perceive it to be safe.
“The city center has suffered from the perception that it is a dangerous place, as has the unfair perception that there is no place to park,” Ald said. Mike Verveer, 4th arrondissement, which represents the central city. “The city center is very safe, although I admit that there can be some sights and sounds that may be uncomfortable for some people.”
Crimes such as aggressive begging, public intoxication or drug trafficking that have plagued pockets of State Street are facing cities across the country, with responses varying nationally between all that is allowed and zero tolerance.
Madison leaned more towards the former than the latter, said Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.
“It’s probably time to have a serious community discussion about moving away from this end of the scale,” she said, stressing that there has to be a separation between unacceptable behavior and what is wrong with it. ‘roaming.
For long-standing issues, policing can be based on a “civic compromise” in which the community determines what public safety looks like, with some behaviors tolerated and others not, Police Chief Shon Barnes said. who was sworn in in February.
“As a leader, I never want to criminalize poverty,” he said. “But we have to remind people that civic compromise has its limits. Prostitution, drug trafficking, violence – that’s where the line has to be drawn.”
The events of 2020 had a mixed impact on crime, with the pandemic lowering some numbers such as aggravated assault and civil unrest while raising others like burglary and vandalism.
Fair or not, the still fresh memories of last summer’s unrest and the visible remnants of closed windows and empty storefronts contribute to the perception of a dangerous downtown.
“To be clear, the protests themselves were not a problem; we see a lot of protests downtown and we see them as positive and necessary in a functioning democracy,” said Nick Martin, owner of Ian’s Pizza. on State Street. “(But) threats of property destruction, violence, and an amplified police presence have caused us to close early for many nights, which alone is costing us thousands of dollars in sales. And we’re luckier than most. “
The city has hired a new entity, Catalysts for Change, which has brought a new and robust approach to raising awareness and helping homeless people, Verveer said.
And the city received a three-year, $ 1 million federal grant for a downtown public safety initiative to explore how to make the downtown area safer and more welcoming to communities of color and others. historically under-represented groups.