Overall violent crime rates downtown and along the State Street area are down from this time last year, according to Madison Police Captain Kelly Donahue. Speaking to an assembly of Downtown Business Leaders earlier today, Donahue attributed the drop to COVID-19.
“There was no significant increase, obviously in some areas like burglary, we had a giant spike in the end of May and beginning of June. But overall, we’re still actually below our calls for service from 2019, which is mostly attributed to COVID,” Donahue said.
According to Donahue, the MPD’s calls for service throughout the city have dropped about nineteen percent from this time last year. Despite that decline, Donahue urged business leaders to request further police patrols downtown.
“I would encourage you to reach out to the Mayor’s office and express your concerns about safety and encourage them to support increased patrols in the downtown area.”
During the meeting, downtown business leaders aired their grievances with protesters and those using downtown’s public property.
Speaking on behalf of one business owner, Jason Ilstrup, President of Downtown Madison Inc. and moderator of the discussion, asked whether there are any loitering ordinances against people sitting on outdoor public benches for extended periods of time.
“There is not,” Donahue responded.
Business owners also expressed concern over the regular gatherings at the top of State Street near the capitol building.
Donahue said the Police Department had attempted to dissuade the gatherings, which often feature music and dancing, by turning off power to the electrical outlets protesters were using. That plan was foiled after protesters bought extension cords and connected to still-active outlets down the street.
Last night, the protesters used a separate generator to power their speakers.
In June, the city’s Finance Committee approved a half million dollar program that would supply individual grants of up to $25,000 to Madison’s downtown businesses. Passage of the economic aid package came shortly after local business owners submitted an anonymous letter to the city council and mayor’s office asking for financial aid.
In the letter, the business owners mourned the change of State Street from a “once vibrant, eclectic, iconic street transformed into a plywood Band-Aid.”
In the letter, the signees also requested increased surveillance downtown.
Speaking with WORT last month, Freedom Inc. organizer M. Adams said the city should be supporting Black lives instead of the city’s businesses.
“You know it’s really interesting that right now, as people are fighting against anti-black violence, that governments know how to respond to the needs of businesses. They can empathize with businesses, they respond quickly. Policy, law and culture; all these things protect businesses. We’re saying the same infrastructure, policy and resources in place to protect a broken window is what we need in place to protect a black life,” Adams said.
The financial relief program is scheduled to go before the common council at its meeting next Tuesday.