City officials, downtown
Three times in the past three weekends, police encounters have resulted in the use of pepper spray. According to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, this recent spike comes in the face of a multi-faceted effort to curb crime on the 600 block of University Avenue.
“To say that this trend is alarming would be an understatement,” Verveer told The Daily Cardinal. “It is an unbelievable coincidence that this happened three weeks in a row.”
Verveer recently co-sponsored an initiative to reduce late night food cart presence in the area, but he says that food carts are only one part of the equation. In addition to the food carts, the city moved a taxi stand off the 600 block of University Avenue and imposed stricter parking regulations on University Avenue, Hawthorne Court, North Frances Street and West Gilman Street.
The Madison Police Department is increasing officer presence in the area, as well as stepping up video surveillance.
As part of the city’s Downtown Safety Initiative, MPD has deployed between six and 14 additional patrol officers downtown on weekend nights. Verveer noted that these additional officers mostly patrol on foot, and that this number may increase even more in light of recent incidents.
According to Verveer, MPD representatives have met with neighborhood bar owners twice this past summer, and are planning another meeting next week. That cohort includes owners of establishments whose dress codes, purported to address the crime wave, sparked controversy on campus last spring.
While underage drinking continues to be a concern in Madison, Verveer characterized the present wave of violent crime as a much higher priority for city officials.