Theresa Terrace neighborhood working to overcome violence - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Madison's Theresa Terrace neighborhood working to overcome violence


MADISON (WKOW) -- A westside Madison neighborhood is working to overcome violence in the community and make it a safe place for families.

On Sunday, for the second time this summer, a group fight broke out on Theresa Terrace. Eight women attacked a 22-year-old woman outside a home, knocking her unconscious. Her injuries from the assault, where some of the suspects had weapons like a belt and a padlock, required stitches.
This comes almost two months after a massive fight on Theresa Terrace in late June, when as many as 75 people flocked to the area, armed with garden rakes, dumbbells and locks as brass knuckles. At least three people suffered significant cuts and broken teeth. Two people were arrested, but Madison police are still working to find more suspects involved.
Police say at this time, they don't believe the two attacks this summer are connected. 
Community leaders say they've learned both incidents stemmed from arguments started by teenage girls and young women, involving people coming from outside of the neighborhood for the fights. Leaders want to put an end to the violence through education.
"What the city is looking for is some of our non-profit partners to start coming up with ideas about how do we program towards girls, how do we reach out and work with adolescent girls to deal with the conflict and deal with some of the struggles they face in their lives," says Alder Matt Phair, whose district covers Theresa Terrace.
Phair says there's not one solid solution to the problem, but believes providing resources and education to both adults and children in the area could be a first start.
In the past year, the community has held several meetings where neighbors could express their concerns. Phair says after hearing what they had to say, the city stepped in and has allocated $500,000 in the budget to create a community center.
Residents like Valerie Vance, who has been active in pushing for change on Theresa Terrace, have been working to get more neighbors involved in this development.
"We are trying to teach [the young people] proper ways of handling these type of crisis solutions," says Vance. "[Offering] things that they want to do that they otherwise would not have the opportunity to do, and I think that would get them off the streets. I think then we could find out why these things are going on."
The center would offer programs and education for children as well as teenagers and adults. It would also be a space for families to come together and talk about problems.
Madison police's west district is also stepping in to help. Lt. John Patterson says it's part of a larger, 2-year southwest initiative. Extra officers are out on patrol in the area, especially on the weekends. Plus, officers walk the streets to meet neighbors and form relationships in the community. 
Patterson hopes the department is able to work more with service providers to help young people find something productive to do, because he says enforcement isn't an effective long-term solution.
Vance says officers are doing a better job than before, but says she would like more involvement among neighbors. Phair says among the community, a mistrust in the police is getting in the way of that and needs to be addressed.
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