Photo by Paul Hermann
Today, local leaders unveiled a 5-year plan to reduce violence in the city of Madison and Dane County. They say the plan will use a public health, data-driven approach to preventing violence.
The plan, titled “Madison Dane County Violence Prevention: A Roadmap to Reducing Violence,” was introduced at a press conference outside the City-County building downtown.
Public Health Madison and Dane County director Janel Heinrich, says it’s the culmination of talks on violence prevention that began back in 2017, which resulted in a task force built in the past 3 years. The plan recognizes that, since then, violence has only increased in Madison and Dane county — especially in 2020.
Heinrich says the plan takes a public health approach to violence prevention — using data and diverse sources to inform decision making.
“A public health approach also recognizes the need to target both immediate – for example shots fired – and underlying drivers of violence, like structural racism and poverty.”
Last July, after the fatal shooting of 11-year-old Anisa Scott, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi called for a plan on violence prevention. According to data from the Madison Police Department, last summer, Madison had 250 shots fired incidents, an increase from the 144 shots fired incidents in 2019.
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway says the pandemic has only exacerbated underlying socio-economic issues that cause violence.
“We know that the disruption or absence of key social determinants of health – like employment, housing stability, and food security – also represent key root causes and risk factors for violence,” she said.
The mayor said preventing violence must include plans to address to health, racial, and gender inequities.
“Given these many linkages, a public health approach to violence prevention is especially valuable, because it understands this interconnectedness,” she said.
The plan has five goals: understanding violence through data, engaging youth children and families, fostering strong neighborhoods, bolstering intervention and healing, and strengthening community coordination.
Faye Zemel is the Director of Prevention and Systems Advocacy at the non-profit Domestic Abuse Intervention Services. Zemel says she is excited that the roadmap includes plans for violence prevention programs focused on children and families.
“Providing kids and families with access to healthy and positive environments, role models, workforce experiences, and positive programming is critical not just to violence prevention but to healthy communities overall,” she said.
Anthony Cooper is the Executive Director of Focused Interruption Coalition, another Madison non-profit that serves those impacted by community gun violence. He says the success of the plan will depend on engagement and input from community members.
“It takes a village to keep marching forward, we have to be able to take that approach. That is the only way,” he said.
Aurielle Smith – the Director of Policy, Planning, & Evaluation, Public Health Madison & Dane County – says a public health approach will lead coordination of data on community violence and prevention.
“Data helps us determine the factors that are contributing to violence and who is most impacted. And we will continue to be using data to help inform violence prevention decision making and action.”
Smith recognized how data driven approaches can be confusing, misinterpreted, or unintentionally contribute to harm. She says the roadmap will include measures like increasing data accessibility, privacy, and using qualitative data along with quantitative.
While the plan is meant for five years, it’s not set in stone. Smith said the roadmap has room for continuous feedback and adjustment.
“The coalition will take on the duties of re-evaluating and re-examining the roadmap every year; not only to establish annual priorities but to account for anything that has changed,” she said.