Madison police work to create better quality of life on top of State Street
Madison police officers are stepping up forces to clean up bad behavior at the top of State Street. The area between Ian’s Pizza and the Wisconsin Veterans Museum has seen problems increase over the past several months.
“Unfortunately it’s a really sad scene,” said Harry Loomer-Young, a shift leader at Ian’s Pizza.
Ian’s Pizza is just one of several businesses that see and sometimes deal with the issues police are trying to resolve.
“Just today actually, I had a gentleman who was cursing out a family on our patio and throwing stuff at them. I had to call the police and we had to ask him to kindly not do that,” Loomer-Young said.
Loomer-Young said that issue has happened before, but it’s the worst he’s seen. Madison police, though, said its officers are responding to drug deals, fights, public intoxication and urination, and even prostitution.
“We want compliance over enforcement, but enforcement is part of our strategy as well,” Capt. Jason Freedman said.
Freedman and several other downtown district officers are working to implement constructive solutions for the continued problems. The city of Madison recently took a step in the right direction by getting rid of Philosopher’s Grove Park, which was located next to Teddy Wedgers on State Street, but shortly realized the problems only moved over 30 feet.
“It had an immediate, positive impact but then many of the underlying problems that may have contributed to that being an issue in the first place didn’t go away. We’ve seen some displacement of those problems in the area,” Freedman said.
Loomer-Young said more action needs to be taken.
“I think just taking away benches or stools isn’t going to do anything to solve this problem. I think that is not even a band aide on the problem,” Loomer-Young said.
The MPD is now looking into new steps that will produce both long- and short-term solutions.
“We need in the short term to make sure people know what’s acceptable and what’s not, what resources are available, hold them accountable, put them in touch with those resources, and hold them accountable to their behavior,” Freedman said. “Long-term though, we have our hands full not only as a city, but as a society.”
He said the department is working closely with social service agencies and other Madison groups to offer help to those who need it, instead of resorting to punishment.
As for those who frequently shop, walk and dine in the 100 block of State Street, Freedman encourages that to continue, but with caution.
“The area is not radioactive. Most of the time people are going to be just fine as long as they’re paying attention. We’re not encouraging people to hand out money and we certainly don’t want people to provide alcohol and we’ve seen those things, which is why I feel I have to mention it,” Freedman said.
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