3. 'And I am keeping him hungry'
It's boom times for fence builders and mean dog breeders here on the Southwest side.
Loud late night parties, the M-F word hurled for all to hear, littering, graffiti, muggings of bicyclists riding through the area, open air drug dealing, burglaries, and shootings - it's the full continuum in which "quality of life" issues slide inexorably into criminality - seemingly within the last five years.
It is the "Broken Windows" theory writ large.
Property values, those canaries in the coal mine, are declining by more than the city average - in nearby Orchard Ridge by 3.7 percent - triple the citywide decline.
People are angry and getting desperate. They are building fences, installing motion-detector lights, installing hidden cameras, buying mean dogs, writing angry letters, meeting and organizing to take back their neighborhoods and - some say - buying guns, figuring if the criminals have them, why shouldn't they?
In Park Ridge, Brian Frick, an otherwise affable young man, keeps a pit bull dog.
The mixed-race couple in the Hammersley sector has erected a six-foot meshed-wire fence. The wife told me, "I also am buying a moose of a rottweiller this week - and I am keeping him hungry!"
They have got the attention of City Hall but not everyone hereabouts is convinced that the mayor and police chief are doing all they can to curb crime.
Not even a half-year in office, Ald. Thuy Pham-Remmele derailed the mayor's fixation with trolley cars and forced the city to focus on doing its basic duty: protecting citizens' lives and property. Backed by neighborhood meetings that attracted as many as 750 angry residents in August 2007, she succeeded in getting 30 extra police added to the force. Given the lead time required in the process - including recruitment and training - most of those police hit the streets only this year.
For her pains, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz removed the fiery alder from oversight on influential Community Development Authority and the Public Safety Committee, instead appointing her to the committee that regulates vendor carts.
"I asked why are we spending an additional $500,000 (for in-home child care) on top of $2.5 million already allocated for child care. I was called racist," marvels the refugee from Vietnam and retired teacher.
Mayor Dave Cieslewicz rightly points out that crime has declined overall in the city of Madison. Allied Drive, for instance, has the reputation as Madison's most notorious neighborhood, but crime there has declined 29 percent in the last three years.
It's a product of Madison's penchant for rehabbing one area with new construction - better drapes and brighter paints - only to chase the problems on down the street. Fortunately, even the mayor seems to be backing off the Better Homes and Gardens approach to fighting crime. The City threw Community Development Block Grant money at Allied Drive to build new units that, The Capital Times reports, aren't filling quickly .
Cieslewicz called the Allied Drive remake, "Incredibly expensive. The cost in dollars (over $10 million) is way too high."
The "action" has moved across Verona Road to the southwest side.
"Drug houses have popped up all over and once one is tackled the drug activity pops up in another location not far away," reports Madison Police Officer John Amos, the beat cop for Balsam-Russsett Road. But the housing in this area looks presentable and it has its own park with ball diamond, playground equipment, and community garden.
In addition, many people displaced from other locations in the city are moving to the area and into apartment buildings whose owners don't background check or do any lease enforcement. This causes problems to the majority of good landlords and tenants in the area.
Six-tenths of a mile to the north and west, the area bounded by Hammersley Road between Loreen Drive and Frisch Road, another man was shot dead at an all-night "party" two years ago. Even this area has its own small park and community garden.
One mile to the north and west of that is the Park Ridge neighborhood. Built in the 1970s, its duplexes and apartments are shaded by mature trees virtually kitty corner from spacious Elver Park just east of McKenna Boulevard - and across the street from toney High Point Estates!
One would never mistake these areas for Cabrini-Green - although the W. Hammersley-Loreen Drive area can look a little downtrodden.
In these three troubled areas crime has increased from 1,553 incidents during the first six months of 2006 to 1,967 during the same period in 2009 - a 26 percent increase, paced by the 33 percent spike in the W. Hammersley Road-Loreen Drive sector - Officer Hanson's bailiwick.
Unsupervised kids are running through homeowner back yards, overturning decorations and stomping on flowers. Teens are spewing foul language for everyone to hear in public places.
Not late at night. Not in the wee hours but at 6 p.m., in the early evening, on May 15 while the entire Meadowridge Shopping Mall is open for business - someone shot a firearm across busy Raymond Road north into the busy shopping center, smashing out a car window.
On Tuesday, June 9, 17-year-old Karamee Collins Jr. was gunned down on the corner of Leland and Balsam Street in a troubled neighborhood that lies on either side of the Meadowood Shopping Center on Raymond Road.
That got the attention of the city's power structure. A week later, the mayor held a summit meeting with about 30 community leaders. Even Ald. Thuy Pham-Remmele was invited, even though the mayor had kicked her off her previous committee assignments overseeing the police and low-income housing.
Her warnings had come all too true.
Coming up next on Blaska's Blog: A chat with Police Chief Noble Wray