UPDATED: Wednesday, January 19, 2012.
Officer Dave Dexheimer hopes to start with small changes on Madison's North side to make a big difference.
After two shooting this fall, one of them fatal, Dexheimer was assigned the Vera Court area's first neighborhood officer.
Dexheimer is working to improve the lighting near a dark bus stop adjacent to where one of the shootings occurred. He calls the area "creepy" and is working with Madison Metro and the city on possible renovations.
Meanwhile, landowners are making changes of their own.
"The fence is new and prior to this fall you would not have been able to see through there at all, it was all overgrown, big trees, brush, and shrubbery," said Dexheimer pointing to an area in the middle of the neighborhood. "It was a great place not just to cut through but there's liquor bottles in there and all sorts of stuff."
Besides meeting neighbors door-to-door and on his bike, Officer Dexheimer is also emphasizing other contact through email and an online message board (linked below).
On Wednesday night, neighbors met for a third time after the shootings at the Vera Court Neighborhood Center to plan more community programming and network. A community walk resulted from their last session.
UPDATED Wednesday, December 21, 2011 --- 11:23 a.m.
Press Release from the City of Madison:
Northside Community Walk
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Starting at 6:30 p.m.
Mendota Elementary School (parking lot)
4002 School Road
Community members will walk for 30 minutes and end at Vera Court Neighborhood Center (614 Vera Court)
Chili, hot chocolate and cookies will be provided.
The idea for this event came from a meeting aimed at bringing the neighborhood together to prevent violence.
UPDATED Wednesday, November 30, 2011 --- 9:39 p.m.
After two shootings this fall, a Madison Police officer will patrol the Vera Court area on the city's north side to better communicate with neighbors.
North District Police Captain Cam McLay announced that Dave Dexheimer, familiar with the north side, will try to earn the trust of residents to avert future incidents.
"When a problem is emerging in their neighborhood like a drug house, for example, they're really comfortable calling us and telling us about it," he said.
The permanent patrol is one of several new measures discussed at a second community meeting tonight following the shootings three days and three blocks apart in October.
Alder Anita Weier says she has also scheduled a meeting with landlords and other leaders to better screen tenants and discuss other best practices.
UPDATED Wednesday, November 30, 2011 --- 11:38 a.m.
Update from Madison Police:
North District community meeting tonight
MPD follows-up on conversation regarding recent violence
The following is a message from North District Capt. Cam McLay:
Tonight, Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 6:30 p.m., Madison Police North District officials will be joining other community stakeholders and City officials at Mendota Elementary School at 4022 School Road for a follow-up community meeting regarding recent violence in the Karstens-Troy-Vera Court area.
Northside residents and stakeholders who are interested and willing to help are welcome and urged to attend this public meeting, as the objective is to explore solutions and priorities, and develop an action plan for residents and stakeholders to keep this Northside neighborhood safe.
UPDATED Thursday, November 3, 2011--10:15p.m.
MADISON--For residents like Julie Jones, recent Northside violence has hit a little too close to home. "I couldn't even believe what I had heard," she said. "It was like right across the street. It could have been our kids, it could have been the people that live in them apartments, it could have been any innocent person."
Jones says she's lived in the area for 16 years--and has never felt scared or worried. But, the recent violence propelled her to join a gym full of others tonight, to talk about what's been going on. "Hear what others have to say and people that want to make the neighborhood better and we all can watch to make things better," she said.
"To heal the community, to try to bring them together and so that there's not a lot of blaming each other but trying to work together to resolve things," said Anita Weier, the alder person for District 18.
Alder Weier helped organize tonight's meeting. She says she's hoping some residents will stand up and lead an effort to protect the community. "People are worried, very worried, so we wanted to give them a chance to voice their concerns and to try to come together to take back the neighborhood before it goes away," she said.
Frank Lusson and his wife have called this area home for more than 4 decades. He says they will not be moving anytime soon as a response to the recent violence. But, they are interested in ways the average resident can help to keep the area safe. "I would suppose they're going to suggest that if you see anything that looks like gang activity that you should report it," he said.
Jones says it may even take some different residents to keep the area problem-free. "Landlords may need to check things out better," she said.
UPDATED Thursday, November 3, 2011 --- 2:51 p.m.
Update from Anita Weier, 18th District Alder:
The meeting scheduled for 6:30-8:30 p.m. tonight at the Vera Court Neighborhood Center to discuss recent violence in the area will instead take place in the gym at Mendota Elementary School, which can accommodate more people.
Posted Monday, October 31, 2011 --- 8:20 a.m.
From the Madison Police Department:
-- Meeting Set to Bring Northside Community Together to Prevent Violence
--- Thursday, November 3 at 6:30 p.m., Vera Court Neighborhood Center
A community meeting Thursday night will give residents a chance to come together following a murder and shootings in the Vera Court/Troy Drive/Karstens Drive area. The meeting will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, November 3, 2011 at the Vera Court Neighborhood Center, 614 Vera Court.
Participants will include North District Police Capt. Cam McLay, neighborhood center Executive Director Tom Solyst and 18th District Alder Anita Weier. Madison Mayor Paul Soglin or a representative also will be present.
"This meeting is a chance for neighbors to share their concerns and suggestions for keeping the neighborhood a safe place to live and raise children," Weier said.