Madison Magazine columnist John Roach - a fine writer - warns in his recent offering about the "wave of violence" in downtown Madison caused by a "predatory criminal element," a.k.a. "rolling waves of thugs." Things have gotten so bad, he clucks, that "Washing blood from State Street sidewalks every morning is just something we must learn to tolerate."
Are such perceptions correct? The Madison Police Department, in preparing for this week's announcement of new initiatives to combat downtown crime, crunched the numbers for the first six months of 2006. They show that robberies in Madison and specifically the central city have risen dramatically from the same period in 2005, from 117 to 206.
"We're on track to hit 400 robberies this year," says Madison Police
Lt. Joe Balles.
But the number of non-robbery assaults has remained constant - 212 from January to June 2006, compared to 211 for the same period last year. And police spokesperson Mike Hanson says earlier estimates that groups of mostly young black men had committed about two dozen campus-area assaults were overblown: "As for the pattern assaults, when all the data is compiled, it appears there are approximately between 14 and 17."