Madison city officials held a community meeting Thursday stressing the importance of safety and implementing precautionary measures ahead of the annual Mifflin Street Block Party this Saturday.
Led by District 4 Alder Michael Verveer, the meeting attracted spectators of all ages, including landlords, residents, college students and neighbors. Members from the fire department and police academy as well as university representatives and inspection officers emphasized the importance of implementing safety precautions to prevent injuries and property damage.
The Mifflin Street Block Party, held annually on the last weekend of April, has a long history of assaults, collapses and property damage. In 2022, two people were hospitalized after a porch collapsed during the Mifflin Street Block Party. Preventing future collapses is a top priority, according to Madison Police Department (MPD) Captain Mike Hanson.
“[The buildings on Mifflin Street] are old buildings, and we don’t ever want to see that again,” Hanson said. “We’re trying to take as many safety measures and precautions [as possible], then communicate with the students.”
In previous years, porch collapses occurred while they were packed shoulder to shoulder with students. Inspection teams have limited ability to test the foundation of porches, so residents must be aware of their homes’ structural limitations, according to MPD officer Jane Preston.
“You are not only responsible for yourself, but also for your residence,” said Preston. “Nobody the residents don’t know can enter, and in the case they do and get caught, we can write them up for trespassing.”
Speaking on behalf of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Assistant Dean of Students Tonya Schmidt said in order to get to porches in many of these houses, you have to go through bedrooms and personal spaces.
“If you have anything of value in your houses and you are planning a party, put them in someone’s car and drive it very far away,” Schmidt said.
Police officers and firefighters will be making regular rounds looking for large crowds on porches, as smaller porches are structurally built to hold around three people, said Hanson.
Law enforcement teams will be traveling for Mifflin alone and will be present to catch students for underage alcohol possession and open bottle charges, according to Hanson. The drone team will also use new technology for alerts about densely populated areas to send squads.
In previous years, attendees reported widespread sexual assaults, drawing increased scrutiny.
This year, overdose treatments such as Narcan will be available at every campus residence hall, and students who seek medical attention for alcohol poisoning will not face disciplinary action, Schmidt said.
“In correspondence with UWPD and MPD, you will receive no disciplinary actions for people who need medical attention because they have had too much alcohol, in the case you are saving your friend or someone at your party's life,” Schmidt said.
The police department will also carry doses of Narcan for immediate assistance, according to Preston.
Going forward, Hanson said he will continue to implement safety precautions to prevent the injuries he’s seen during his 22 years on the force.
“We will give this the hardest study that we have ever seen to make 2024 different, better and safer,” Hanson said.