Violent crimes up on 600 block of University Avenue

Violent crimes up on 600 block of University Avenue

The 600 block of University Avenue in Madison has been a problem area for years, but Madison police said it’s worse than ever before.

This weekend alone, there were multiple fights. Police Capt. Jason Freedman said it’s partly because gangs are invading an area once predominantly occupied by students.

“We literally have had a seven(fold) or an eight fold increase in those violent felony batteries,” Freedman said.

Freedman said that’s based on data collected during the first six months of 2017. During that time period, police were called to the area more than 500 times. Between August and the beginning of October, officers responded to more than 100 incidents.

Arturo Ruiz, who manages Village Pizza on the 600 block of University Avenue, said the restaurant was vandalized earlier in the year.

“During the remodeling, they broke a couple of our windows,” Ruiz said.

Freedman said the overwhelming majority of the issues take place around bar time. He believes the area is attracting people, some with gang affiliations, who didn’t traditionally go out downtown..

“So you have a very volatile mix of large quantities of intoxicated people being kind of interspersed with folks who have made a lot of bad decisions in life and are bringing weapons,” Freedman said.

In the past year, the Madison Police Department has done simple things to disperse the crowds, such as removing food carts and taxi stands from the area. Freedman said police are working with bar owners and have installed more surveillance videos.

More than a dozen officers are dedicated to the area during busy times. Ruiz said there’s a big difference in behavior when police are around, but Freedman said the true key is to reduce alcohol consumption and the volume of people.

“There’s still some deep underlying issues that we are running up against. We’re not declaring victory by any means,” he said.