The Meadowood neighborhood on the city's far west side has in years past been plagued by violent crime, including burglaries and a fatal shooting in 2009. But a unique event is helping to turn things around.
In its third week, Madison's "Meet and Eat" has attracted hundreds of Madison residents to Meadowood, and its success has residents and police taking notice.
The event is held near the corner of Raymond Road and Whitney Way, and it gives neighbors a place to eat food and get to know each other.
The weekly event hosts food carts, and everyone is invited.
"It's the new modern block party," said Meadowood resident Kris Dingfelder. "It's kind of nice having the variety of downtown and other aspects of Madison coming to us."
The food vendors are at Meadowood on a trial run only, but already police said the get-together is having a noticeable impact on what can be a crime-ridden neighborhood.
"For neighborhoods to improve and really thrive is to have these types of events. Maybe not this specifically, but something that brings people together so they know each other and have a little more stake in the area," said Madison police Capt. Victor Wahl.
There's also a community center, watch group and extra police patrols helping keep violence down. The fatal shooting of Karamee Collins, a 17-year-old Memorial High School student, in 2009 was the area's last homicide.
"I think comparing where we are today to five, six, even seven years ago, things have improved quite a bit and have stabilized quite a bit," Wahl said.
Creating a sense of community is exactly what Madison's mayor had in mind when he thought up Meet and Eat.
"We'd totally do this again if they decided to have it for us," said Dingfelder, who along with 1,500 estimated total attendees is helping to make the mayor's dream a reality.
Next Thursday is the final Meet and Eat, but its success is solidifying the plan for it to become an annual summer event that rotates around to different locations.
It will be held from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the parking lot adjacent to the Meadowood Shopping Center at 5800 Raymond Road.
The food vendors include: Banzo, Electric Earth, Ernie's Kettle Korn, Wei's Food to Go and FIB's, to name a few.
For more information, go to www.cityofmadison.com/parks/celebrate/madisonmeetandeat.cfm.