Madison’s southwest side has been in the news quite a bit lately as the area continues to struggle with crime and negative incidents. But there are plenty of positive initiatives coming out of that area, too, including a new Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation grant working to address crime and socioeconomic drivers of crime within the 53711 zip code.

“Just like south Madison had a bad reputation, southwest Madison has a reputation, too,” Stephanie Bradley-Wilson, project manager for the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation (BCJI) grant, tells Madison365. “But there are a lot of people who have been working to demonstrate that it is a safe and livable place and to emphasize all of the positive things going on in the area.”

The Common Wealth Development’s BCJI grant is an 18-month federal funding that is a planning grant only. It was secured by the Madison Police Department and is phase one of an ongoing effort to address short- and long-term public safety in the Raymond Road. corridor. Bradley Wilson will be collaborating with residents, neighborhood associations, governmental agencies and service providers to develop, coordinate, and carry out a comprehensive plan.

Stephanie Bradley Wilson brings 31 years of community experience to Common Wealth Development.
Stephanie Bradley Wilson brings 31 years of community experience to Common Wealth Development.

“These are areas that have been identified as possible hot spots where they have been problems related to quality of life or some criminal activity,” Bradley Wilson says. “We want to be able to get a good combination of people from this area that is somewhat diverse. The purpose of this is to have a resident-driven strategy designed by stakeholders in what is called the southwest neighborhoods.”

Bradley Wilson worked for Madison Police Department for 31 years in a variety of roles from an undercover officer to neighborhood officer to shift commander and lieutenant supervising detectives. On three different occasions, she worked on the south side of Madison. Bradley Wilson becamse a lieutenant in 1999.

“My favorite job has been working with the community and I thought this was a good opportunity for me,” Bradley Wilson says of her new job. “It fit my background with community and policing.”

Bradley Wilson retired on January 11 but that didn’t last long. By the end of February, she was hired by Common Wealth Development to be the project manager for the BCJI Initiative. “I never really stopped working,” she smiles.

The Raymond Road target area that she will be focused on is located in southwest Madison and consists of several neighborhoods including Meadowood, Prairie Hills, Greentree and Park Ridge/Park Edge. The community, made up of 8,800 people, consists of single family homes as well as several large apartment complexes and townhouses.

Stephanie Bradley Wilson, second from right, working as a server at a Meadowood Community Supper.
Stephanie Bradley Wilson, second from right, working as a server at a Meadowood Community Supper.

“My job as project manager is to kind of shepherd the process to make sure that we have community engagement and that we come up with a plan and a strategy that we will be able to apply for either the federal dollars or other funds that might be out there,” Bradley Wilson says. “The other goal is that whatever is identified as the short-, mid-, and long-term strategies that they want to see implemented … to give them some sustainability.”

It’s very important that this big effort is a grassroots effort. “We’ll have a steering committee that will be comprised of 15-17 individuals that will get a lot of information about this whole area,” Bradley Wilson says. “Then we’ll have small workgroups that will be neighborhood-focused and they will actually go through a problem-solving process to identify their concerns in their particular neighborhood. The small workgroups are where I can really see a lot of residents being involved.”

Bradley Wilson emphasizes that it is essential for youth to be involved in this whole process. “One of the things with either the small group or the large group is to have youth participation,” she says. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to have some youth focus groups this summer. We’ve made contact with the MSCR [Meadowood] Neighborhood Center that is out there as well as the Meadowridge Library and the Wisconsin Youth Company. There are a number of places where we hope we can make contact with youth and get their input.”

There are issues with transportation and food deserts on the southwest side of Madison – there isn’t a grocery store there. There have been issues with crime. But Bradley Wilson also sees a lot of positivity and reasons for optimism coming from the area.

“One of the great things that is happening out there are the community suppers. Theresa Terrace [Neighborhood Center] has a community supper. The Meadowood [Neighborhood Center] area has a community supper,” she says. “Those are things we want to sustain. [Safety and support initiative] Parents on Premises (POP) are another good thing. Lots of great things going on in the area.”

Bradley Wilson doesn’t see her new role as being too different from some of the roles she enjoyed playing when she was a police officer, especially when she was involved with community engagement activities. The new project also fits with Bradley Wilson commitment to service as longtime active members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis
Dr. Jeffrey Lewis

Bradley Wilson says she will be working on the project with UW-Madison Extension research partner Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, who will give support to participatory, evidence-based approaches to gathering and using data to help develop strategies for the planning process. Dr. Lewis will be able to help share evidence-influenced practices that have worked elsewhere in order to make decisions that produce a positive impact. “Jeffrey has done some work out in the Webb-Darbo [area] with [Mentoring Positives Executive Director] Will Green and he’s done some other work with school districts,” Bradley Wilson says.

Phase one will be the planning and phase two will be the implementation. “Phase one is an 18-month process and we will have a window of opportunity to apply for funds some time in 2017,” she says. “Resident input is important to the project in order for it to be successful.”

There are about a dozen sites throughout the United States that are in the planning phase of the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Initiative. Bradley Wilson says the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation has been successful in Seattle and other cities in the past. The project kicked off with the steering committee meeting last night.

“We are going to move into having the small groups and the focus groups towards the end of the summer and into fall,” Bradley Wilson says. “We want to be able to be ready to apply for funds in early 2017 and to be able to have some implementation of some of the things to come out of the planning process, as well.

“It’s a lot of work, but I’ve met just so many interesting and concerned people who want to be involved with this,” she adds. “I’m very excited about this project.”

If interested in getting involved in the project and the process, you can e-mail Stephanie Bradley Wilson at [email protected].