The crowd of approximately 800 west side residents who gathered Thursday night at St. Maria Goretti school may not have been expecting to receive a lesson in the theories and practice of community policing, but that's exactly what they got.
Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, West District Capt. Jay Lengfeld and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz made liberal use of PowerPoint slides (available below) in presenting an exhaustive lecture on how they propose to halt what many consider to be a spreading crime problem in the city.
The meeting was a response to a listening session held August 8 which drew a large crowd of residents eager to share stories of vandalism, drug dealing, gang graffiti, loud late-night parties and violent crime.
The reported turnout of over 700 people at that meeting and the subsequent coverage led to Cieslewicz abandoning his streetcar plans and, most recently, announcing that he plans to call for 30 new police officers in the 2008 city budget, instead of the 18 he had originally planned.
"There is a sense of urgency from me and the mayor and the officers," said Wray to the crowd gathered Thursday night. "The tone, tenor and emotion in the concerns you raised called for us to take immedate action, before 2009."
That immediate action will include implementing an accelerated police academy, ramping up the community policing effort on the north, east and west districts and adding more detectives.
Wray also made it clear to the predominantly white gathering that strong neighborhood watch programs were necessary and that there were "people who are more directly connected to the issues we're talking about who are not here."
When asked later to explain what he meant, Wray said, "We're not going to get the gang members or the drug dealers, but their relatives, their friends and other people living in that neighborhood and they don't want to see it either. They're the ones who are most vicitimized. This won't turn around until those folks show up."