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Fitchburg police address rise in gun violence

FITCHBURG (WKOW) — About two weeks ago, the Fitchburg Police Department called two neighborhood meetings after a spike in shots fired incidents. In total, there were six in the span of about two weeks, mainly in two Northside neighborhoods.

Since then, Police Chief Chad Brecklin said the agency is working to move beyond those meetings and put the community at ease.

"Anytime firearms are used it heightens the anxiety, it heightens the severity of the situation because you don’t know where those bullets are going to be hitting and you don’t want an innocent person hit," he said.

It’s a sentiment that echoes the fears of the people who live in those communities. Dena Mora said she moved into the neighborhood near Post Road just a week before the July 13 incident which saw two shots fired incidents within 10 minutes, injuring one man.

"At first I was kind of scared to even go up there ’cause I don’t take Leopold but I go around that area," she said.

After that, Brecklin said he wanted to show residents his department was taking action. He said they ramped up visibility in the Post Road and Thurston Lane neighborhoods, where several other shots fired incidents took place.

"No one deserves to live in a neighborhood where they’re fearful of their own safety," he said.

Brecklin believes these incidents aren’t limited to Fitchburg. He said in most cases these shootings are not random and often involve people who have conflicts with one another and the violence follows wherever they meet, whether that’s in Fitchburg or anywhere else in the Madison metro area. That’s why he said his department has partnered with other metro area departments to find patterns in this violence.

Brecklin did not give a specific update about investigations into these shots fired incidents but he pointed to last week’s arrests with the Dane County Narcotics Task Force as a success when it comes to cutting down on these types of incidents.

Still, Mayor Jason Gonzalez said there needs to be more than law enforcement support for this issue.

"We’re not going to be able to police our way in the sense of just law enforcement out of it," he said. "We’re going to need to work with the residents in the neighborhood, the landlords, our community-based groups."

That includes the neighborhood response team, which makes sure apartment managers and landlords are taking care of their properties and their buildings meet certain quality of life standards.

According to Brecklin, this violence can be difficult to predict but he said Fitchburg shouldn’t look at it as the new normal.

"To have five incidents in such a short period of time is not a common occurrence," he said.

As for those like Mora, who live in these neighborhoods, they said crime is not how they define their streets.

"I feel very safe here since I’ve been here," she said. "I’ve met so many wonderful people."

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