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Police use cameras to bust crimes at Penn Park

Officials say people using the park, neighborhood activities deter crimes

MADISON, Wis. - Cameras help make busts at a local park on Madison's south side, but they can't catch everything.

Madison police said cameras helped them get pot, crack and booze away from a known problem spot at Penn Park on the city's south side, a block from Park Street.

Police said the park's layout makes it a good spot for illegal activity like drugs and gambling.

As the neighborhood officer near Madison's Penn Park, Mike Alvarez, said when kids are playing, it's a win for the park but the game on seen on a surveillance video in late June is what officials do not want to see.

The surveillance video showed kids playing basketball as a group of adults started shooting dice.

It is an activity neighbors have complained about and police used the video to move in. The group scattered but police found crack cocaine and marijuana, and made arrests.

"So our problem is we've had a lot of people coming from out of the neighborhood and making use of the park for illegitimate reasons," said Alvarez.

But what's happening in the daylight is less of a concern than what's happening in the pavilion. Because of the way the roof was built, there's a big contrast between light and shade, so when people with bad intentions are under it, it's very difficult for police to see what they're doing.

Alvarez wants to city to open the pavilion up and make it brighter. He also wants more family activities in the park, which neighbors said they have tried with little success.

"We have ice cream. We have games for the kids. We have prizes for the kids, but nobody comes," said Marilyn Withers, a Penn Park neighbor. "They're afraid to have their kids come."

Withers has lived near Penn Park for years and said police always have a good presence but said neighbors should be doing more.

Officials say people using the park, neighborhood activities deter crimes

"I don't know what to think. I don't know what to do. I just gets frustrating," said Withers.

"We're trying to get this pavilion changed, make it a better place for the community," said Alvarez.

Police said they need the neighborhood's support to help root out the bad.

"When it's positively used, when people invest in the park, it makes who come here to do illegitimate things uncomfortable," said Alvarez.

Police said crime isn't a big problem in the fall when the park is busy with south side Raiders Youth Football.

The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County said it has added a quick ball program in the park this summer and police said the YMCA will also host a senior fitness class there.

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