“It’s wrecking my nerves,” Madison mom moves family to hotel after fearing for safety at The Meadowlands
" I don’t know if I’m going to wake up to chaos or calmness. And that’s not what I want to be living in and raising my children.”
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Fearing for her children’s safety, a Madison mom has moved her family to a hotel rather than stay in their new apartment. Madison police have now deemed the east side property, The Meadowlands, a chronic nuisance with 911 calls soaring since the place opened late last year.
Some of the video links included in the story below may be disturbing to some viewers.
A mom’s story
On a spring day when the sun is shining, there’s only one place these sisters want to be, making memories under their mom’s watchful eye. In a few months, there will be a new baby sister to share in on the fun.
But lately these outdoor play time memories have been rare. This family has been temporarily staying in a place nearby this park as a safe haven from their actual home, The Meadowlands.
“And it’s wrecking my nerves. It’s wrecking my nerves because I don’t know if I’m going to wake up to chaos or calmness,” says mom, Toccara V’Dillie.
Arguments turn into full out brawls in the hallways. Scenes are captured and posted to social media.
The 225-unit apartment complex opened last September. Rent ranges from $900 to $1,500 per month. The low income housing under Section 42 is owned by KCG Companies out of Indiana. KCG got tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, or WHEDA, to build it.
“They were new. They were beautiful,” says V’Dillie.
Looking at the first quarter of the year, on average, police are called to The Meadowlands almost three times a day. Month by month, in January, data shows there were 60 calls for service. In February there were 56. And in March there were 100. And in April, calls were down at 49, with eight calls alone on April 2.
Calls range from things like noise complaints, domestic disturbances, battery and weapons offenses. Police have issued citations and arrests, so the property was declared a chronic nuisance, a property harmful to the community and negatively impacting safety according to the city rules.
So much so, Toccara moved her family out of their Meadowlands home and into a hotel temporarily.
“I don’t want to be there right now because I’m terrified that my children will be one of the innocent ones hit in this stuff because it’s so reckless,” says V’Dillie. “I have a 16-year-old son. You would think he would be able to engage in the community, you know be a young man. I’m so terrified to even let him do that. He’s confined to the house.”
The root of the recklessness, to Toccara, starts with what she calls bad management. She says a better screening process needs to be put in place for tenants, and she wants more transparency from managers, too.
“They need to really start communicating. It’s kind of like, in a sense, it’s bad business,” says V’Dillie.
“We have great residents who follow the rules. And unfortunately we have a handful who don’t. And that’s where the majority of our problems are stemming from,” says Kim Hurd, VP of Property Management with KCG.
Hurd says management tried holding a meeting for tenants to address safety concerns, but barely anyone showed up.
“The response that we got was minimal, right? And that was challenging,” says Hurd.
Hurd also says every tenant gets screened before they are accepted. They have a credit check and the property says they check applicants’ criminal records, too.
“So they do have to pass a background check to get in there, and we have certain criminal activity levels that we don’t allow. That would not allow them to be in there,” Hurd said.
Hurd also said the majority of problems the complex has is not with actual tenants, but guests and visitors.
“We have a no trespass list. We have a ban list that we work with the police department on. So once we have a situation with someone, we advise them that they can not come back to our community,” Hurd said.
Madison police refute that claim, though.
Madison Police “can’t police their way out”
“Most of the people we’ve been dealing with live at the apartment complex,” says Madison’s East Captain Jamal Gary.
KCG was ordered to try to mitigate the issues with an abatement plan. They made a plan to put in more cameras, hire security, post no trespassing signs and meet with police weekly.
“This is the quickest I’ve had to issue a nuisance abatement for a property. So they started renting to tenants in September. We issued the initial nuisance letter in February,” explains Captain Gary.
Captain Gary and Madison Common Council Alder Jael Currie work hand in hand trying to turn the property around. But they are putting the pressure on the property owners, KCG, to step up, too.
“It has to be all hands on deck. Like Captain Gary said, we can’t police our way out of the situation,” says Currie.
Hurd points to the initial communication with the police department as one of the problems.
“I wish that we had a better heads up that the police had the concerns they had and we could have gotten ahead of that,” says Hurd.
Captain Gary disagrees. He said his department and the city were working with the property to put a plan in place before it was even built.
“We had been in contact since the property opened. So I don’t know how much sooner we could have made them aware of the issues going on here,” says Captain Gary.
Since the abatement plan was set in place, Captain Gary says things are improving.
“I would say we have not seen as many significant incidents as we were seeing two months ago at the apartment complex,” says Captain Gary.
But residents like Toccara say it’s too little too late. She wants out of her lease.
“This is a low income based building. I want them to understand that just because its that don’t mean you have to live that way,” says V’Dillie.
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