July 9, 2007
Chief Wray on gangs in schools
Madison Police Department Chief Noble Wray spoke on downtown safety at the monthly meeting of Downtown Madison, Inc. on June 28, 2007, and also briefly addressed the topic of gang activity in Madison schools during the program, as reported in The Capital Times (via the MadCrime101 blog, a welcome and valuable new resource focusing on concerns and issues relating to crime in Madison).
Chief Wray acknowledged the growing problem of gangs in Madison and their presence in Madison schools, and spoke of the need to quantify the extent of the problem and its trends, rather than reacting based on anecdotal “information”. I couldn’t agree more. The MPD can make much progress toward this goal by fuller and consistent disclosure to the public of incidents and statistics on gang activity (whether through its police district newsletters or its public information office news releases). But to quantify the gang problem in schools, the MPD will need to rely on data from the MMSD, since much can happen in a school which is relevant to quantifying the gang problem but isn’t brought to the attention of the MPD. Can the gang problem in Madison schools be accurately and reliably quantified and assessed for those schools that don’t have ERO’s (Education Resource Officers)? Of if the policies on when calls for service are to be made to MPD vary from school to school? Or when the MMSD relies on suspension and expulsion rates, instead of actual incidents of disruptive and violent behavior, to gauge school safety (all the while moving toward a policy of discouraging suspensions and expulsions)?
Madison City Channel 12’s video of the program is at this link: Downtown Madison, Inc. Presents: Madison Police Chief Noble Wray. The portion of the audience Q&A that addressed gang activity in schools is at 41:01 on the video clip, and a related earlier question regarding graffiti is at 38:55 on the video clip. For Mac users (the Mac user in our household informs me that the video doesn’t play on Macs), or for those who’d rather read than watch, a transcript is below the fold.
Response to audience member question [“Chief Wray, would you comment on the current status of gangs in and around Madison, especially in high schools?”] at 41:01 on the video clip:
A couple of things – one is that everyone’s aware we have gangs – the last two or three years, we’ve seen an upsurge. What we’re trying to do at this particular time is to quantify – quantify it and not be reacting or talking about gangs in such an anecdotal manner. You know “gangs are getting worse,” “‘gangs are getting better” – how do we know that – you know there may be a few high profile incidents. This last surge in gang activity we did see in and around the schools, we do have recruitment that takes place in the high schools, this last trend that we’re seeing, the increase in Latino gangs, increase in young women involved in gang activity. United Way is working on something that I think is part of the issue, working on a “Disconnected Youth” initiative – there is an enhanced gang task force that’s dealing with these issues in terms of trying to quantify the extent of the gang problem not only in Madison but in Dane County because that is another trend that’s moving out not just in Madison but in other areas of the city, I know that, I mean other areas of the county.
Portion of response to audience member question at 38:55 on the video clip, which asked Chief Wray to comment on graffiti:
It [graffiti] should be reported and it should be removed as soon as possible, because for us that’s how we are getting – for example, the last increase – we had an increase in gang activity in 2004. The precursor to the increase in gang activity was an increase in graffiti. So, from a policing standpoint that was one of the leading indicators that told us that – “hey, do you have something else going on here.”