‘It’s just a very sorry situation’: New plans announced to prevent violence on State Street

‘It’s just a very sorry situation’: New plans announced to prevent violence on State Street

Last week’s shooting on the popular downtown pedestrian mall, known as State Street, was the final straw for Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. In light of the increased criminal activity cited by Madison police, Rhodes-Conway is taking the first steps to make State Street safer.

“So far this year we have made more arrests and issued more tickets than we did all of last year,” said Madison Police Central District Capt. Jason Freedman.

Freedman’s staff is working with the mayor and the city to come up with plans on providing long-term solutions to help prevent crime in the area.

Last week’s shooting on #StateStreet was the final straw for @MayorOfMadison Satya Rhodes-Conway. She announced new plans to make the area safer. Her office along with several other agencies are coming up with more ideas for a long-term solution #News3Now https://t.co/s474UWtIQR pic.twitter.com/fDzaHuy48U

— Jamie Perez (@JamiePerezTV) July 15, 2019

Rhodes-Conway was not available for an on-camera interview to outline her plans, but did describe them in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal. The plans include removing several seating areas, putting in additional street lighting and increasing policing efforts in the area. Other ideas revolve around putting up fencing around the large plant area near Ian’s Pizza, and limiting the electricity provided at outlets in the area that people use to charge their phones and other devices. Rhodes-Conway also suggested having “pop-up” stores in empty storefronts to promote positive activity, along with working with social service groups that provide food and resources to homeless people to relocate their distribution sites.

The alder for that area, Mike Verveer, is among the group collaborating with Rhodes-Conway to come up with plans for the future safety of State Street.

“It’s just a very sorry situation,” Verveer said. “I don’t take pleasure, for example, in removing seating for the public and removing benches in these hot spots. But, I’m afraid to encourage the really massive loitering and behavioral issues that are attached to that. We do have to take somewhat drastic actions.”

Freedman agreed that he isn’t pleased things had to come to this, but knows this is only the first step and doesn’t provide a long-term fix.

“It is probably a necessary component, but it is not a solution,” Freedman said.

While conversations are still ongoing about potential plans going forward, Verveer said, “The most radical idea that has been around for quite some time that I have not been supportive of and the mayor, likewise, isn’t supportive of, is literally ripping up those cul-de-sacs that are at the top of State Street and opening up to motor vehicle traffic on both Carroll and Mifflin streets.”

Freedman offered other potential solutions to look into.

“Big picture stuff is adding services, connecting people to services better and there’s probably going to need to be some revamping or altering of some existing frameworks, whether it’s in the courts or the attorney’s offices, city and district, to get better accountability,” Freedman said.

Verveer said he is open to suggestions from the public. If you have plausible solutions you would like the collaborating agencies to consider that does not infringe on the homeless population and the social services provided in that area, you are welcome to email your suggestions to jfreedman@cityofmadison.com or district4@cityofmadison.com.

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