A swell in violence and drug deals may be caused by felons dropped in Madison without a place to stay.
Madison Police Capt. Carl Gloede says a park near the intersection of State St. and W. Mifflin St. is becoming a favorite hangout for criminals around the clock. Since the start of the year he says incidents in the area, bordered by the reconstructed library to the south, caused 430 police calls resulting in 213 arrests.
"We've seen an increase of drug dealing in the area, and lately we've had some serious batteries and a stabbing all in that 100 block of W. Mifflin area," said Gloede.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin attributes the crime surge partly to the state Department of Corrections dumping offenders released from prisons from around the state in Madison without a place to stay, stressing the shelter system.
"We plan to talk to some of the other municipalities that are using their staff, their vehicles and literally driving their residents to downtown Madison," he said. "I'll tell you right now we will drive them right back."
Some who frequent the area echoed the call for action before alders during Tuesday night's city council meeting. Maria and Daniel Milsted have owned several apartment and commercial buildings on Mifflin St. for 28 years. They say not only is it harder to find tenants, but they fear for their own safety.
"I'm scared to death to go into my own office at 106 W. Mifflin" said Maria Milsted. "Capital Tap Haus on busy nights has a guard posted at the bathroom so that they don't go in and shoot up."
Daniel Milsted says he has seen potential renters turn away after encountering suspicious crowds of more than 40 people right outside their property.
Soglin hopes to meet with Madison Police Chief Noble Wray and the DOC to explore solutions. Some city staff and alders liken the area, sometimes called "Concrete Park," to Lisa Link Peace Park before it was redone with additional lighting, seating and a visitor center.