People want safe neighborhoods. That is the primary take-away from my winter survey, and does not come as a surprise to me. In all of the Glendale Neighborhood meetings my wife, Emily, and I have attended, neighborhood safety has been the most frequent topic. On Next Door, there are frequent reports of car thefts and auto burglaries, and Madison residents have been shocked at reports of gunfire, with occasional stories of homeowners digging bullets out of walls, and even accounts of people getting shot–often young, often Black, sometimes complete bystanders to targeted violence. Eleven-year-old Anisa Scott was shot and killed on East Washington Avenue in August last year. She was a passenger in a car. She was in middle school.
In the midst of this violence, trust between police and civilians has broken down. People protested for weeks, folks smashed windows and looted small businesses. The police chief quit. The police union voted “no confidence” in the mayor. Some have called for decreased funding for law enforcement.
I was surprised to learn last year that 84-percent of Blacks nationally support increased funding for law enforcement. That’s right–increased funding. That should come as no surprise, really. Violent and other crimes are committed against Blacks more often than whites. Blacks want to be treated fairly by police. But Blacks also support law enforcement.
I spoke with a woman in the Owl Creek neighborhood, as my wife and I were doing a “walk and talk” in my run for Madison City Council. She had moved from Milwaukee. She likes her new Madison neighborhood. She told my wife and me, “The police helped get rid of some troublemakers, and now things are good.” I realized that if I told this story to people, many would say, “She’s a racist.” The woman was Black. She didn’t say what race the troublemakers were. We make all sorts of assumptions. Many are wrong.
Police cannot make our neighborhoods safe. But we need the police. Southeast Madison is annexing Blooming Grove and the Town of Burke. The area is increasing. Shouldn’t police staffing increase to fill the void? When poverty increases, crime increases. The pandemic has led to people losing their jobs. Is this really a time to decrease funding for law enforcement?
But ultimately the police cannot make our neighborhoods safe. Neither can social services. By the time these problems reach law enforcement or social services, they are nearly impossible to solve. Police and social services are important, and right now they both need increased funding. But the actual solution to these problems requires Equality of Opportunity, which earned a middle-ranking in my winter survey. When opportunity increases, crime decreases. We should focus on Equality of Opportunity. That is the primary theme of my run for City Council, and has been the topic of several prior posts. I will talk more about that in the future, and I will also expand on the results of my winter neighborhood survey.