Posted by: Opey | May 24, 2007

Murder in Madtown

The title pretty much says it all. For those of you outside of Madison, or WI for that matter, a person was shot and killed on State Street, a pedestrian street with shopping, dinning, and bars lining either side, on Tuesday night. While everyone’s shock over this event is a testament to the rather secure environment of Madison, this is the most recent in a fairly long line of events that has drawn that general consensus into question. Over the 4 years I was an undergrad here at UW-Madison (2003 to 2007), I was witness to an escalation in both minor crime, as well as more violent offenses. There has been an increase in both drunken arguments, fights and other drinking related crimes, which one is to expect from a school ranked as the number 1 party school in the nation by multiple publications. Then there is more troubling rise, or at least perceived rise, in violent offenses. Whether it is the slew of rapes, the strong arm robberies, the home invasions, or the more recent string of assaults and now this murder, it appears that the relative secure calm is being drawn into question. The reasons for this rise are many. For one, the drinking culture in Madison plays a large part in this, whether it be in instigating a fight or in its role of creating a drunken victim to be taken advantage of. Then there is the seemingly lax enforcement/security measures on State Street and the surrounding area. The police seem to care more about catching underage drinkers in bars then they do about patrolling the streets and stopping the crimes on the more violent end of the spectrum. Finally, I point a finger at the media. As with all things crime, I believe the media has created a monster in regards to these stories. They have spun these stories to make it seem like there is a massive crime wave underway, instead of the slow steady increase that has been occurring. For instance, on Madison.com, the site which features stories from the Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal, all of the top stories relate to the murder or some derivative thereof (need for security, reactions, etc.) Reporting the facts is one thing, going into detail and creating a panic is another. In regards to how to curb the crime, I’m not sure there is a good way. I get the feeling that the drinking culture will remain the same for decades to come, bar-density plans or not, so those crimes will continue. Police shifting focus from underage patrols to more street-level visibility would help, but that may not be a sufficient deterrent. In the end, it may just be the case that these new crimes are a horribly unfortunate part of being a growing city. We cannot stop them altogether, we can only hope to minimize them as best as possible.


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