In this space, I’ve spent much time talking about the positive things happening around our campus and city. I want to spend a few minutes on a problem that we’re working to solve: Crime in our downtown area.
UW-Madison is a “city within a city” and faces many of the same crime and safety concerns as similar-sized communities. While UW-Madison posted the lowest crime rate it’s experienced in 37 years and the city of Madison is rated as the fourth safest in the United States, a recent string of robberies, burglaries and assaults has increased concern among students and parents. The university, its police, and student life units are also extremely concerned and working hard to respond from policing, crime prevention and communications perspectives.
It is unknown whether some or all of the incidents are linked. Most of the incidents have taken place near campus, involved multiple suspects, and students have been victims.
The university has always viewed safety as a shared partnership between students, faculty and staff, our police and city. Everyone has a role to play.
In response to these incidents, there have been additional UWPD and MPD bicycle, foot and motorcycle patrols, along with frequent door-to-door contacts on Regent Street and Breese Terrace and other targeted areas. Officers have been brought in on overtime to provide extra patrol staffing. Security officers have also been looking for suspicious behavior.
You may have noticed an increased amount of communication around these issues. The expanded communication effort is part of a preexisting plan to increase the information flow about crime to help keep members of our campus community safe. It’s a good practice and one we plan to continue.
The university takes an active approach to communicating, using multiple channels for distribution. In all cases, the university strives to meet Clery Act timely warning requirements.
Here are some of the ways we’ve been communicating:
WiscAlerts: Urgent emergency messages via text, managed by UWPD. These are reserved for the highest level of emergency, such as an active shooter or an incident requiring immediate action on your part. Currently, more than 19,000 users are signed up for text messages. We would like to see that number continue to increase. Subscribe to the emergency WiscAlerts text messages at safeu.wisc.edu/wiscalerts/. In addition to text messages, we convey this information through wisc.edu, Facebook, Twitter, mass email and voice calls, when appropriate.
Timely warning emails: Initiated by UWPD, these messages are sent by the institution to comply with the Clery Act and generally sent within 12 hours of a major crime being reported.
Mass email messages from Dean of Students Lori Berquam: As you probably know, Lori Berquam cares about our students, faculty and staff. She frequently emails segments of the community in response to events of concern.
Other methods: You’ve likely seen crime alerts, designed to raise media attention about nearby but off-campus major crimes. We’ve also increased the number of crime postings on social media sites, as well as safeu.wisc.edu and news.wisc.edu. These messages are frequently carried in The Weekly and Inside UW-Madison. We are also frequently in touch with parents.
What can you do in a situation like this?
Everyone has a part to play in campus safety. Here’s how you can help make the community safer:
- When you receive a WiscAlert or other message, it’s vital that you heed the warnings and follow the directions given.
- Follow @UWMadison and @UWMadisonPolice on Twitter to view alerts and pertinent information and ask questions.
- Walk in groups of three or more at night.
- Be aware of your surroundings when out at night. Do not wear headphones and don’t look at your phone while walking.
- If confronted by an individual with a weapon, give up your property immediately.
- Use common sense and don’t flash phones or electronics.
- Keep doors and windows locked, even when at home.
- Don’t prop open exterior doors or let people you don’t know into a building.
- Report suspicious or criminal behavior by calling 911.
If you have specific safety questions or concerns, please email the UW-Madison Police Department at firstname.lastname@example.org
The UWPD and Madison Police Department are hosting a series of social media and in-person engagements to share information and seek input on campus safety. I encourage you all to participate.