On this page:
- Risk and Protective Factors in Preventing Violence
- Sexual Violence
- Domestic and Relationship Violence
- Gun Violence
- Violent Crime
- Violence requires a public health approach to prevent death, disability, and injury. The public health approach to violence prevention relies on data to understand the challenges and opportunities in our community.
- The root causes of violence are complicated. The reasons why people engage in violence go beyond individual choices. Aspects of our communities, policies, and society can also influence violence trends.
- Public health’s role focuses on these broader causes so that we can prevent violence before it occurs and have a larger impact on violence trends.
Poverty, Jobs, and Income
- Poverty has long been associated with crime, including violent crime. Large inequalities between the poorest and the richest people tends to be a driver of crime. Shrinking this gap may help to decrease violence in communities.
- Like much of the U.S., Dane County has a large gap between upper- and lower-income households. Households in Dane County in the top 20% of income make $140,000—over four times what households make in the bottom 20% ($34,000).
- People of color, particularly Black people, experience large economic gaps in Madison. According to the American Community Survey, approximately 22.8% of Black people in Dane County are below the poverty line ($28,000 for a family of four). 18.4% of Hispanic and Latino households are under the poverty line. 9% of White people in Dane County are under the poverty line.
- A history of slavery, redlining, housing discrimination and job discrimination have created a multi-generational gap in wealth between Black and White families. Some of those discriminatory practices still exist today.
Safe and Affordable Housing
- Safe and affordable housing is important for neighborhood stability, and neighborhood stability affects violence.
- Additionally, environmental exposures in older, poorly-maintained housing, such as lead exposure, have been associated with increased crime rates.
- Rents in Madison have been increasing, and vacancy rates have been very low. This leaves people with the lowest incomes with little choice of where to live and contributes to housing instability and homelessness.
Connections and Supports
- A lack of social connectedness in communities and neighborhoods has been associated with violence.
- Neighborhoods tend to be more connected when they have stable, long-term residents; the presence of extended families; friendships among neighbors; good schools; and gathering places like places of worship, parks, community centers, and libraries.
- In Madison, the 2019 Equitable Development Report highlights how many neighborhoods that were previously affordable have gentrified rapidly, resulting in increasing rents and decreasing numbers of people of color.
- This also links back to affordable housing: when building supply isn’t keeping up with the demand for homes, which is what is currently happening in much of the U.S., housing costs increase, pushing lower-income people out of their homes and communities.
Violence Trends in Dane County
The People Behind the Numbers
Below, we present rates of different kinds of violence in Dane County. These rates represent real people who have experienced trauma and harm. Regardless of trends, each incident is important and deserves recognition. No level of violence is acceptable in our communities.
- Sexual violence is incredibly common and affects millions of Americans each year. Over half of all women and almost 1 in 3 men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes.
- Numbers reported to law enforcement are very likely to be undercounts for many reasons.
- Dane County has a statistically significant lower rate of reported sexual violence compared to Wisconsin as a whole. 2020 rates were lower for both Dane County and Wisconsin, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Due to stay-at-home orders and other pandemic precautions in place in 2020, it’s possible that a higher number of sex offenses went unreported, especially if they occurred in the home. It’s also possible there was a true drop in sex offenses, due to fewer interactions with others and bars and restaurants being closed or at significantly reduced capacity.
- Domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence (IPV), is common, and also likely underreported.
- IPV includes physical violence, stalking, and sexual violence. About 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced some form of IPV during their lifetime.
- IPV often starts early in life during adolescence. People from groups that have been marginalized by society, including BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth, are at greater risk of experiencing IPV.
- In Dane County, an important resource for people experiencing intimate partner violence is Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS). 8,399 people called their helpline in 2020. You can learn more about their work in their annual report.
- The number of guns in Wisconsin has increased over the last decade.
- The number and rate of firearm-related deaths has also increased.
- On average, 80% of annual firearm deaths in Dane County are due to suicide.
- Suicide disproportionately impacts men, particularly white men, while homicide disproportionately impacts Black men.
- 1 in 2 adults report being impacted by gun violence, either directly or through a family member.
- For more information, see our data report: Gun Violence in Dane County
- Violent crimes include homicides (murder), sexual assaults (rape), robberies, and aggravated assaults.
- Overall, violent crime is trending downward in Madison, per Madison Police Department data. The violent crime offense rate decreased by 22% from 2018 to 2021, and was significantly lower in 2021 than 2018.
- For more information, see our data report: Violent Crime Trends in Madison