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Community safety program partners with police to respond to 911 calls

Focused Interruption is working to bridge the divide between police and the citizens they service.
Published: May. 20, 2021 at 4:19 PM CDT|Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 7:23 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A new program is working to bridge the divide between police and the citizens they service.

This week, the City of Madison approved $60,000 in funding for the group Focused Interruption, a violence prevention program.

Last fall, Focused Interruption formed a team of Community Safety Workers who respond to 911 calls and work with police officers in Madison’s west side district.

Mike Alston and Sheray Wallace are the two pilot members of this program. They say they’ve responded to nearly 40 calls since they started.

Wallace says she’s already seen the impact it can make on her community.

“We try to create a space where people can talk about what’s going on,” said Wallace. “We try to mediate different situations and provide them with services like resources.”

Wallace says they don’t get in the way of letting the police do their job, but rather act as a tool to connect with a victim or aggressor.

“We get more information of what’s going on,” said Wallace. “We get to that deeper part, that root problem and what’s creating the problem that have the police there.”

Alston says often times neighbors are more receptive to someone they know who’s trying to help than someone in uniform.

“I just think people are going to get the help and resources that they need way quicker just because they’re more accepting to us because they see the work that we’re doing,” said Alston.

He says that his own relationship with law enforcement has changed for the better through this program.

“It changed my outlook because they do want to learn and they do want to help their community,” said Alston. “It actually showed that these are people too and they are doing a very difficult job and when people are not trying to connect with them, it makes it harder.”

Nick Loumos, the Chief Operating Officer of Focused Interruption, says the city’s investment will allow the program to double their efforts.

“This first year is really testing, learning and figuring out what works and what doesn’t,” said Loumos.

The program hopes to expand to other neighborhoods in Madison with a high volume of 911 calls.

Loumos says the goal is to reimagine public safety and address the needs of community members.

“The community safety workers can connect people to what they need in the short term while we continue to work on the societal factors in the long term,” said Loumos.

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