State Street business owners say area still safe, despite increase in crime

State Street business owners say area still safe, despite increase in crime

Despite a shooting that happened behind Ian’s Pizza on State Street Saturday night, business owners along the popular Madison street say the area is still safe.

Many businesses told us off camera that they hear and see a lot of crime on State Street, including drug dealing, prostitution and, more recently, a shooting. Some business owners said there is a high turnover rate for the businesses along the street, but many choose to stay because they feel that the area, overall, is safe.

Nate Mergen opened his new bar, 107 State, just three weeks ago. Despite the shooting happening practically across the street from his business, Mergen said: “State Street is safe overall. Come down and enjoy it. I think everybody knows this, but there’s a problem around here that needs to be addressed.”

Mergen said he knew about the issues related to crime on State Street prior to moving in, but said, “I feel that if we don’t continue to try to evolve the block, and we just run away from things, nothing is going to get better.”

Mergen said he hopes as more businesses fill the empty retail spaces, it will attract a better crowd and deter crime. He also added that he has spoken with the city to make sure State Street business owners’ voices are heard as they work to find a solution in the near future.

“The 100 block of State Street where I’m located, there are a number of issues here and it’s with the homeless and the transient and the people who aren’t necessarily homeless but the people who are hanging around here.”

A man named Frederick Burton (aka Chile), has been living on State Street since 1992. He said: “They blame it on the homeless. They’re not all homeless. There’s a lot of people that come out, just hang out and aren’t homeless. They’re working people, people who are homeless and still work, and they want to have a good place to chill out at.”

Burton said he saw the shooting happen Saturday and was scared for his life and the lives of the many others who were there at the time.

“No one knew anything. It was just pow — that was it,” Burton said.

Burton said while many people can run for safety or go home in situations like that, State Street is both his safety and his home.

“We are State Street. To not feel safe or comfortable or welcome, that’s not cool.”

Burton acknowledges that some members of the homeless community can cause trouble at times, however, many business owners acknowledge it’s typically not the “regulars” who hang around State Street that pose a problem. Burton said it’s mostly those who come from all over and have no business hanging around the area.

Madison police said Saturday’s shooting is still under investigation and the department placed an increased amount of officers downtown as part of their downtown safety and violence reduction initiatives.

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