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Madison, Sun Prairie police report “staggering” number of gun violence cases in 2020

Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 10:20 PM CDT
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DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - Two Dane County police departments report startling statistics on gun violence so far this year, with a “spike” last week in Madison.

Madison police chief Vic Wahl said that a single week—between June 30 and July 7—showed a “trend moving in the wrong direction.”

He noted: 2 fatal shootings, 15 shots-fired incidents, 8 houses and 7 cars hit by gunfire and a total of 148 shell casings recovered.

The incidents, he described, ranged from “handguns, rifles, people shooting at each other in moving cars [and] people shooting into homes where children are present.”

Wahl compared this data to last year’s, saying nearly every month in 2019 saw 15 or fewer shots-fired incidents. Madison saw the same number of incidents during this one week in 2020.

“That should just be staggering in terms of the amount of gunfire that’s taking place in a very short period of time in the city,” he said.

The concern over gun violence is similar at the Sun Prairie Police Department.

According to Lieutenant Ryan Cox, there have been seven shots-fired incidents this year, with two of them resulting in injured victims. The running total in 2020, he said, is the same as last year’s grand total.

Furthermore, Cox said that the seven gun-related cases are “outside of Sun Prairie’s normal.” In 2018, there were two incidents, whereas in 2016 and 2017, there were four.

But according to Cox, the department “goes beyond” the numbers to figure out the “root cause of it, so that we can prevent it from happening again or that we can potentially prevent that retaliatory shooting.”

Though current data do not explicitly draw the connection, Cox said that his officers prepared for COVID-19 to impact behavior.

“Their lives were torn up,” he said. “They’re flipped upside down. Potentially businesses are shut down. Money [is] not coming in. That’s going to make people act potentially differently than when they’re normally faced with stressors.”

As for steps to mitigate gun violence, both Madison and Sun Prairie police departments said they seek opportunities for prevention and intervention. Madison’s police chief said he works with community stakeholders and highlighted the “Focused Interruption Coalition,” a group that tries to connect with those in ongoing disputes.

However, Wahl added, “These problems defy any sort of easy solution. You can look across the country, and we grapple with gun violence here in the country. It may ebb and flow a little, bit but the level of firearm-related killings and shootings that we have here in the United States are just off the chart when we compare to other countries.

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