Recent widely-publicized violent incidents near the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus left many students feeling unsure of their safety. However, the Madison Police Department said that crime downtown is actually on the decline compared to past years.
A statement released by University of Wisconsin Police Department (UWPD) Chief Kristen Roman to the UW-Madison community on Tuesday highlighted three violent incidents, one of which was an attempted homicide with a firearm on the 100 block of State Street last Tuesday. The police search for the suspect, who is still at large, resulted in thousands of students and fans being kept in the Kohl Center after that day’s Badger basketball game.
Filip Jawdosiuk is a UW-Madison student who moved to Madison from Denver, Colo., at the age of 12. Now 20, Jawdosiuk noted that this year, he has perceived a much more dangerous Madison compared to when he first moved. He linked this to an increase in gun violence in recent years, something that has trended sharply upwards both nationally and statewide over the last decade.
“Regardless of what you think about guns, every single one of us seems to have decent odds to be murdered at any moment,” said Jawdosiuk.
This attitude reflects one that studies have indicated is common among Americans, where fear and anxiety about rising gun violence have had a measurable impact on the national psyche.
Ingrid Szocik, a sophomore from Milwaukee, echoed these sentiments. She said that “any act of violence occurring on a college campus is triggering” with the rate of mass shootings rising, and expressed frustration with the fact that no notification about the shooting was given to students.
UW’s complex emergency alert system requires students to actively opt into off-campus alerts if they want to hear about events occurring in proximity to, but not on, the UW campus.
Chief Roman’s email also touched upon two events this past weekend, including gunshots on University Avenue and N Frances Street and a stabbing on N Frances Street. In the email, Roman specified that neither event concerned a UW student nor took place on campus.
The latter incident also triggered a shelter-in-place order from UWPD to everyone at the Student Activity Center (SAC) on East Campus Mall. Those individuals were under orders to stay inside with all doors locked from the initial alert at 2:23 a.m. to the all-clear message at 3:14 a.m.
According to Shawn Zhu, a sophomore who was in WSUM’s studio in the SAC at the time, the message generated high anxiety among the group he was with for the hour-long lockdown. Zhu said he recognizes that Madison is a relatively very safe city, but nonetheless felt that “the recent shooting, this stabbing and the attacks earlier this year on Asian students on campus are concerning.”
Although Zhu said UWPD “did their job” in that the perpetrator was apprehended, he wished the police had more directly communicated with those locked down in the building. When the SAC’s motion-activated lights were triggered, he and his friends had not yet been made aware whether they were safe or not.
Students who are concerned about their safety on campus are encouraged to take advantage of a number of resources available to them, including SAFEwalk and opting into off-campus alerts. Those whose mental or physical health has been impacted should reach out to University Health Services.