Gun violence in Madison has not gone up significantly in the last 15 years, and there are several steps the City could take to make it go down, according to a City report released today.
Madison Alders Maurice Cheeks and Matt Phair today released the report, in the works for nearly a year, in the wake of a rash of shootings across the city.
“Quite frankly it’s been an issue that’s been affecting my constituents quite acutely,” said Phair, who represents the city’s southwest side. “That prompted me to look at this, to stop looking at Band-aid approaches and look at generational approaches.”
“Our districts are the most heavily impacted over the course of the last year,” said Cheeks, who represents portions of the west side. “(Phair and I) hear regularly from our constituents and the community more broadly for elected officials to be responsive to not just symptoms but root causes. That’s what we’re getting at with this. Trying to take responsibility as elected leaders for acknowledging that root causes have a major role to play in the symptoms that we see manifest.
The 30-page report, prepared by legislative analyst Heather Allen and policy intern Jenna Roberg, “identifies trends and identifies data-based programs that can help address those issues, “ said Cheeks.
One of the key findings, Phair said, is that “there hasn’t been an increase of gun-related violence in the last 15 years. It’s been steady. But steady isn’t good enough. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”
Phair and Cheeks both said many policy recommendations may arise from the report, but Phair identified three that he wants to get working on right away.
First, he said he wants to expand the city’s Youth Employment Initiative. “All the research points to the fact that when kids have employment, they tend not to fall back to crime, or not get involved in crime in the first place,” he said.
Second, he wants to fully fund the Communities Against Violence program, a partnership between the City and area nonprofits. The report calls for full funding “immediately,” including “one full-time employee for case management services and 0.3 FTE staff member for administration and organization of coalition meetings.”
Third, Phair wants the City to join in Dane County’s juvenile justice work, specifically in the creation of a Crisis Restoration Center which could be “a place of respite for people experiencing a mental health or substance abuse emergency. “
“That’s a big ask,” Phair said, noting such a center could require millions of dollars to build, but it could be worth the expense if it reduces violence.
“This represents more than we could possibly do right now,” said Cheeks of the report and recommendations. “But we’ll be identifying things that we recommend investing more in, or partnering with the County on. I want this to be a positive thing.”