UPDATE: Madison alders introduce initiatives to address gang problem

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Updated: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 --- 8:41 p.m.

Two Madison Alders are introducing new initiatives to address the city's gangs, following a violent weekend of gang-related incidents.

District 10 Alder Maurice Cheeks and District 20 Alder Matt Phair are suggesting city leaders consider expanding Madison Police Department's Gang or Violent Crimes task forces, strengthen youth mentorship and after-school programs and develop a neighborhood center plan.

"To me, it's an issue we have to acknowledge around the city. We have to take responsibility and come together to solve the issue," Phair said.

They're also working to initiate a gun buy-back program, of which Cheeks said many people have already voice support.

"I've gotten a number of emails from people asking, 'how can we help?' so I know Madison is ready to stand up to this type of violence," Cheeks said.

Former gang member Aaron McCarroll told NBC15 in an interview last month that he thinks too many guidance programs, like domestic violence and substance abuse intervention, are only offered in jail.

"Those programs need to be taught in the community, they need to be available for them... not in a confined setting, in a setting where they can learn a difference and actually go out and do something with that difference," McCarroll said.

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said Sunday the city is operating on "borrowed time" that no innocent by stander has been hurt during any of the instances of shots fired throughout the city. On Saturday, police responded to reports of shots fired at West Towne Mall. Later that night, an 18-year-old was shot multiple times on Russett Road. Police confirmed both incidents were gang related.

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Posted: Monday, March 2, 2015 --- 6:00 p.m.

Madison Police indicated Sunday evening that both the "shots fired" incident at West Towne Mall and the shooting on Russett Road were related to gang activity.

"Gang violence is the theme of the past 24 hours and it is up to me as the city of Madison police chief to tell folks in Madison that we gotta get a grip on this," said MPD Chief Mike Koval. "This isn't going away."

Gang activity isn't new in Madison but police are renewing prevention efforts. They aim to reach out to people, especially kids before they join.

The MPD Gang unit works closely with the neighborhood's kids and teens. Officer Shane Olson builds relationships and talks to them.

"A lot of these kids are good kids, they just get carried away, caught up in the wrong stuff at the wrong time. they're kids that you can still talk to and make a difference, you just have to keep at it," said Olson.

But the gang unit says they can't do it alone.
They're reaching out to parents, to stay vigilant, look for signs and ask questions.

Sgt Brian Chaney also works in the gang unit and has outlined a few clues and signs to look for when you think your child might be getting involved in a gang.

"If a child starts to disassociate with their former friends generally friends that are well known to their parents and they move on to friends that are a little unfamiliar. Your child starts to wear all of one color or two colors and it seems like everything they wanna wear has to have this color," said Chaney.

Other signs include etching of signs or graffiti that you haven't seen before on their belongings. On top of that however, Chaney says research and awareness are key to action.

"[look up] What are the requirements to be in a gang, what are some of the colors, signs symptoms associated with gang lifestyle. I think that's when we can make a true change in some of the violence that we've been seeing here today."

More information on indications and facts to help understand why a child might want to join a gang can be found on Chief Mike Koval's blog on the MPD website.