Madison Police Want To Downsize Mifflin Block Party

Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said Monday that the Madison Police Department wants to downsize the annual Mifflin Street Block Party with the goal of minimizing the potential for violence.

The decades-old annual spring party has evolved from a street protest to a reason to drink alcohol to excess. Wray said the level of alcohol consumption and drunkenness at last year’s party was out of control.

Betsy Berens lives on the 500 block of Mifflin Street. For the University of Wisconsin-Madison senior, living at the epicenter of the Mifflin Street Block Party is about managing the good with the bad.

“I was here last year during the block party,” said Berens. “And I have to say, I enjoyed being an attendee rather than a host.”

The block party turned violent last year, with alcohol allowed to be sold and consumed on public property for the first time.

“We had two stabbings, several fights, detox was full.” said Wray. “I had three officers that were injured last year. I ended up going to the ER with one of them.”

Wray said Madison Police Department costs for 2011’s party totaled more than $130,000, an increase of $43,000 from 2010.

“The costs are going to go up this year.” said Wray. “They have to by virtue of the fact that we’re going to need additional staff there this year to deal with some of the issues we had last year.”

Hoping to downsize the party, Madison police said alcohol will not be allowed to be sold or consumed on public property.

“When people know what the rules are and what the rules of engagement are up front and beforehand, we tend to do a lot better with voluntary compliance,” Wray said.

Students like Berens question how many revelers will comply.

“I honestly don’t see the party downsizing, really,” Berens said. “So many people come from out of town and come to the party. And so many students get so riled up for it. So I don’t really see it downsizing.”

Madison police will hold neighborhood meetings, distribute fliers and have officers talk to students on Mifflin Street about expectations before this year’s party on May 5.

Wray said he would like to see the party end for good. Wray said it won’t happen overnight, but that’s the long-term goal.