Last Friday, gun shots rang out in the West District. When this happens, dispatch airs alert tones over our air indicating that something serious has happened. Sometimes it’s a panic alarm, sometimes it is someone armed with a weapon during a fight and sometimes it is someone with a gun. After 17 years on this job and still to this day, my heart skips a beat when I hear these and I wait to hear the address. On Friday, the address aired was on Balsam Rd. Our officers and detectives arrived quickly, put up crime scene tape, talked to witnesses and began their investigation. A short time later, a person showed up at a local hospital with a gunshot wound, which they said was acquired on Balsam Rd.
We refer to this person who was shot as a victim, and they are, they truly are. But do you know who else is a victim? Everyone that witnessed this, everyone that heard the shots, the kids playing in Meadowood Park, the people who are trying to get into their residence but can’t because the place where they live is now a crime scene. I could go on and on.
After this shooting occurred, I asked one of our analysts to pull some statistics on that area. Our data indicate that to date in 2022, we have had one reported shots fired incident thus far compared to 7 total in 2021 in the Meadowood neighborhood. Our reported violent offenses have dropped as well, from 28 in 2021 to 13 thus far in 2022. I looked at these numbers and thought to myself, that’s great, we are overall trending in a positive direction.
But then my thoughts turn to the mother I met on Wednesday at a community conversation who told me that her kids are afraid to go to the park now. Or another mother who lives in fear that her own children will be collateral damage due to violence they never asked for.
As a parent, these disclosures shake me to my core. As the Captain of the West District, it makes me want to send all our officers to that area and form a perimeter around it so nothing bad gets through. Except I cannot do that. We are also called to other places.
On Wednesday afternoon, I attended (along with Meadowood Neighborhood Officer Lucas Hale and West Patrol Officer Alyssa Souza) a violence prevention table talk put on by Meadowood Health Partnership. They are doing some great work in the neighborhood and want to start having some honest conversations about how to thwart violence in their community.
It was a productive 2 hours. Productive because it afforded the opportunity for people who live in the Meadowood Neighborhood to articulate what they care about and what they worry about. It’s always good for our police personnel to hear the concerns, but it is also important in turn that the neighborhood knows as much about us as possible, about our processes and our staffing and how we simply cannot be everywhere all the time.
I have used this blotter space to promote community events because strong neighborhoods can counteract violence. They can band together and lean on each other and support each other. It’s actually pretty cool! Opportunities abound in this city for neighbors to congregate and engage with each other.
For example, this Saturday (8/13) the third session of Love Your Neighborhood: Reinvigorating Southwest Madison is happening at Good Shepherd Church from 11:30am to 1:30pm. Register at www.southwestmadison.org.
We can’t just want safe neighborhoods. We have to work for them, all of us, together.