Janesville police banning some offenders from Fourth Ward

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Frank Schultz
June 12, 2015

JANESVILLE—Several local residents are being told to stay out of the Fourth Ward neighborhood or risk going to jail.

These are no ordinary residents. They are on probation as part of their sentences in criminal cases.

The restrictions are part of a joint effort between Janesville and the state Division of Community Corrections as they work to keep a lid on gang activity and keep the city's near west side safe this summer, officials announced Friday.

Probation agents are allowed to impose restrictions—such as forbidding the wearing gang colors or associating with gang members—on their probation clients, said Sgt. Michael J. Blaser of the police department.

Police can stop those who violate the restrictions, and their probation agents can impose a jail stay as a result.

Those banned from the Fourth Ward have gotten into trouble there before, Blaser said, so staying away could be good for them.

“This is another way to help those offenders to stay compliant with those restrictions, and the goal here is that we don't have offenders re-offending. We don't want to just lock them up,” Blaser said.

The restrictions on the residents' freedom of movement is part of a wider annual effort, carried out in recent days, in which police contacted more than 60 known gang members.

Police call it their Safe Summer Initiative. Gang members were contact between May 29 and June 7.

During those contacts, the department's Gang Abatement Team verified the gang members were complying with their probation or parole restrictions, checked their addresses, offered assistance where necessary and encouraged alternatives to violence, according to a news release.

A small number of those contacted were arrested on warrants or for violations such as drug possession, Blaser said.

The effort focused mainly on the Fourth Ward and Look West, the near-west-side neighborhoods that contain some of the city's greatest concentrations of poverty.

One arrest was of a “high profile suspect from another jurisdiction,” who was wanted on warrants, according to the release.

Blaser would not identify the suspect but said he was suspected of involvement in “at least a couple of recklessly-endangering-safety cases in other jurisdictions.”

None of the offenders banned from the Fourth Ward live there now, Blaser said.

Police are working with corrections officials to grant exemptions for some of the offenders so they can visit family in the neighborhood. Some of them could be required to meet family outside the neighborhood, Blaser said.

The police initiative is not because of any upsurge in gang activity.

Blaser said over the past eight years he has been with the gang unit, efforts to document, track and reach out to gang members have reduced gang activity here.

Janesville police have not reported any serious shots-fired incidents for many months, unlike Beloit to the south or Madison to the north.

Janesville police have paid special attention to the city's' most vulnerable neighborhoods since massive job layoffs in 2008 associated with General Motors closing its plant here. The idea is that if these neighborhoods stayed safe, Janesville would stay safe, and that would help economic redevelopment efforts, Police Chief Dave Moore has said.

Blaser would not say how many have been banned from the Fourth Ward, but he said it is fewer than the 60 or so gang members contacted in the recent effort.

Police plan to release details about those banned from the Fourth Ward next week.

This weekend, meanwhile, two officers on overtime are bolstering police presence in the Fourth Ward.

The officers will be meeting with residents in a pro-active policing effort, Blaser said.

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