Increased crime near Tree Lane Family Apartments raise community concerns

By  | 

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- An apartment building on Madison's west side is attracting the wrong kind of attention after an increase in crime in the neighborhood.

Madison Police have visited Tree Lane Family Apartments 17 times within the past week. District 9 Alder Paul Skidmore said since the apartments opened this past summer, he has seen crime in the surrounding area increase.

"I've been alder in that neighborhood or in that district close to 18 years now, 17 and a half years, and I haven't received complaints during that time, just the garden variety issues" he said. "This is the first time in my tenure that we've had these type of calls, and they come in a very regular basis."

The Tree Lane Family Apartments provide housing for the formerly homeless. Since the building opened this summer, there have been around 270 police visits.

"It's not just noise complaints, these are serious criminal offenses," said Skidmore.

Calls include theft, trespassing, disturbances, and even weapons violations and fights. Due to the increased crime in the area, Skidmore hosted a community meeting, where he said citizens voiced their concerns. He also said local businesses have been impacted.

"They're fearful, they would like things to change, they would like to be safer," he said. "The businesses are experiences loss due to shoplifting, retail theft, and patrons are getting nervous and staying away from the businesses."

Victoria Schloss, the general manager for the Rocky Rococo near the apartment building, said that starting mid-summer, they have had kids come into the restaurant, vandalize their machines, steal coins and tickets, and cause a scene. She said the restaurant ultimately had to call the police.

"I think we're losing a few customers that used to come out, they would see the issues that were happening here," Schloss said. "Some of my customers were abused by them, verbally abused and called names."

Schloss said that she has lost regular customers because they told employees they felt unsafe walking in the area. She also said she knows some fellow businesses are having trouble, and that the cleaning crew who tends to the restaurant is scared to be there at night.

Heartland Housing owns the builds and responded with this statement, reading in part, "We have achieved many of our near-term goals to enhance apartment and community safety, including the addition of a full-time dedicated property manager and expanded hours of security staff coverage at each site."

However, Alder Skidmore believes there is more that needs to be done about the housing.

"As building owners they have a responsibility to maintain a safe premise, and they're not doing that."

Skidmore said that seven families have been served eviction notices. He said two families have settled, while another will be leaving soon. Skidmore also said that he, Madison police, and representatives from Heartland have been meeting weekly to try to improve the situation.