After a homeless man was fatally beaten on the Capitol Square June 18, Capt. Carl Gloede says Madison police started hearing comments that "this happens all the time and nothing ever happens about it."
"If people aren't reporting these crimes, that's disconcerting, because we want them to report it," Gloede adds. "There may be this presumption that we won't do anything if called."
Early on June 18, Bob Kuntz was brutally beaten while sleeping on the Capitol Square. The 61-year-old died the next day from his wounds. That same weekend, in a separate incident, a 49-year-old homeless woman reported she may have been sexually assaulted on the bike trail near Monona Terrace, but was too inebriated to know for certain.
Two officers on foot patrol were the first to come upon Kuntz, says Gloede, who heads MPD's Central District. He says their actions helped quickly identify a suspect, Justin Brooks, a 31-year-old homeless man, who was charged with first-degree intentional homicide.
Gloede recognizes that homeless folks have a high risk of being victimized, especially late at night when few people are around. But he hopes they feel comfortable turning to police when they need help.
Tami Miller, who does outreach to homeless people, says she thinks police do a good job of looking out for the homeless. "The problem we have is that when citizens complain, people are forced to move constantly."
One former homeless man, who didn't want to be identified but still hangs out around the Square and State Street, says it's rare for the homeless to report crimes to police.
"The homeless people have a problem calling police anyhow on anybody," the man says. "That's kind of one of the rules out here -- you don't call the police, no matter what. They call them people 'snitches.'"
Gloede says the district doesn't plan to change the way it patrols because of the killing, but adds, "We're going to continue to be out there."
The homeless man, Bob Kuntz, who was attacked on June 18, was not particularly well known on the streets of Madison. Like a lot of homeless people, he kept to himself.
"He was a very smart guy," says Dave Peters, one of the few who got to know Kuntz. "He was kind of aloof, a loner. He didn't really mix in with the rest of crowd."
Peters says that Kuntz was writing a book, but he didn't know what about. "He had a keen analytical mind. He was interested in science and physics, and told me of some of his ideas about how life began and where we are going."
Carrie Riddle, a city public works employee who does homeless outreach, agrees that Kuntz was "private," but says he also had a caring side. "He was a very sweet man," she says. "When I pretended to be homeless one night last winter, he offered me his blankets."