These days when we go to the Meadowridge branch public library here on the southwest side of town we tell our loved ones, "Cover me, I'm going in to return a book."
Not late at night. Not in the wee hours but at 6 p.m., in the early evening, while the entire Meadowridge Shopping Mall is open for business - someone shoots across busy Raymond Road north into the busy shopping center!
Shots fired in and from the Balsam/Russett street areas, which straddle Raymond Road in each side, are becoming more common. There's trouble on the west end of Hammersley Road and in the Parkridge neighborhood across from Elver Park as well. Unsupervised kids are running through homeowner back yards overturning decorations and stomping on flowers. Teens are spewing foul language for everyone to hear in public places. And it's only mid-May.
One of my neighbors - a person previously unknown to me - says, "Unless the police are able to get a handle on the roaming gangs, this summer is going to be bloody."
The following verbal snapshots are taken from the public record or from e-mails shared with me with permission of the writer if their names were withheld. Feel their fear, frustration and anger.
Madison Police Incident Report
by Lt. David McCaw
Incident Date: 05/15/2009 - 6:01 PM
Address: 5750 Raymond rd (Meadowridge Shopping Center)
Details: The victim reports that her windshield had been shot out. The vehicle was parked at 5750 Raymond rd. Conflicting information from witnesses but officers found 7 bullet casings on the opposite side of Raymond rd. No suspects, no other victims, no weapon found. It appears that the person who had their wind shield shot out was not the intended target.
From a Library customer
At the Meadowridge Library at approximately 6:10 pm, we heard 4 -5 rapid pops, which sounded to me like a small bore handgun. A report was made to 911 from the Library. MPD were interviewing potential witnesses when we left the library @ 6:30 pm. The incident occurred on the south side of Raymond across the street from the Library and Anchor Bank. [Taken from the neighborhood e-mail listserv.]
From a bank customer:
My wife and daughter were at the bank at 6 pm on Friday [NOTE: immediately next door to the library] just before the shooting, then left minutes before it happened. She was really freaked out when I told her and wants to get out of here and find someplace safe to live.
She also goes to Good Shepard (Lutheran Church) for Girl Scouts and is scared at night when getting out. I think the fence around there is a great start. How many volts are going to be running thru it?
Unless the police are able to get a handle on the roaming gangs, this summer is going to be bloody.
It looks like we are not going to get any help from the city or county, and I am not sure how much the local media is willing to stick their necks out to show how bad some pockets are and how much kids are allowed to get away with. About the only things left are blogs, email lists, and national media. If we can get some good video coverage and hit national, we might be able to embarrass the local leaders to do something.
From a Meadowood resident:
My husband wants to build an iron fence but we can only go 4 feet high; that will do nothing. Can I get an ok to go higher and then get a Doberman to patrol the front yard? I am very frustrated and looking on the net for a new home. [Excerpted from a public document submitted this week to the Common Council]
From an Orchard Ridge resident:
In an earlier ... discussion about the Flad Park issue, one of our residents brought up that he'd ask the police to try to talk to the offending kids - primarily about the loud cursing, which none of us likes to hear, especially around our small children. The police reportedly told him they can't do anything about it because it's a free speech issue.
That just doesn't seem right to me. No, they can't ARREST the kids for cursing. But they can certainly talk to them about being disorderly and a "nuisance" (both of which are legal terms, I believe).
It used to be that cops could have what some call a "come-to-Jesus" with kids, and kids would shape up. (It used to be that ANY grown-up could have such a chat with a kid, and the kid would shape up.) I guess today, the police (and adults in general) have lost much of their strength. I don't know if that's because of societal changes, a lax judicial system that puts offenders back on the street as quickly as they're swept up, or what. I find it appalling - and sad.
But if the POLICE are going to get frustrated and turn tail because they feel impotent, then what's a simple neighborhood resident to do?
From Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
To Ald. Thuy Pham-Remmele: I am the new Facilities Manager for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Raymond Rd., which is in your district. We are looking to put in some gates at our Balsam and Raymond Rd. entrances. Our parking lot has become a "through" street for people on Balsam Rd. I was told that I needed a recommendation for the gates from our alderperson in order for it to be approved. I would greatly appreciate a letter from you with your recommendation for this safety improvement.
From the McKenna Boulevard area
"Wilding in the streets" ... refers to the behavior a group of youths in ski masks engaged in several springs ago when they chased my mother out of my front yard, in the course of running down the street whooping and smashing car windows with baseball bats, two blocks from the west side police station.
This is why I don't really care if Thuy properly performs the political correctness dance of obsequy as long as she doesn't falter at trying to get thugs off the streets. She seems like the only Madison politician who isn't more upset about there being a drive through at Starbucks, plastic bags in stores, or too much parking downtown than about my fiancé being too scared to go for a walk. [Posted on The Daily Page Forum.]
From a cynical liberal
Uh oh, mom got chased out of the yard again. The Madison crime wave continues. [Posted by "Boston Jeff" on-line in response to the above, and demonstrating perfectly the real source of the problem we have.]