The Spring Student Party (formally known as the Mifflin Street Block Party) has traditionally been held on the first Saturday in May. The party began in the late 1960’s as a street protest, where students took to street dancing in an effort to bring attention of their disdain for the Vietnam War. The party was held annually throughout the duration of the war. The initial years were fraught with violent interactions with students and police. Attendance had varied from several hundred people, to several thousand.
Over the years, the party evolved from a political statement to an annual student party, which required City resources to police the event due to the issues related to the overconsumption of alcohol. During the early 1990’s, the Madison Police Department withdrew intensive patrols of the area and the party continued quite uneventfully until 1996, when there was a violent riot with substantial property damage and injuries.
Since that time, the number of people in attendance grew into the tens of thousands; to the point where the Dane County Sheriff’s Department and the UW Madison Police Department provided resources to supplement MPD. There were numerous sexual assaults, disturbances and physical confrontations that took place during these events. A number of sponsors came forward in an attempt to sponsor and manage the party. In 2011, the City allowed a street use permit and the party was sponsored by a local business. The crowd size was significantly increased and police noted that the numbers of those individuals who were either intoxicated or incapacitated was far greater than previous years. Alcohol-fueled decisions led to dangerous situations including stabbings and other violent incidents. Officers were also injured in attempting to quell disturbances. Several hundred arrests were made during the 2011 and 2012 events.
Following the 2012 event, the City began to discuss the cost of the party, not only financially, but in terms of the toll the party was taking on enabling crime and the effects on the neighborhood. It was decided that a street use permit would no longer be issued and that the City would no longer absorb the high cost(s) of the party.
In 2013, planning efforts began early with City staff, students and area residents. A decision was made that there would not be a sanctioned party. Furthermore, all violations of law would be strictly enforced by the Madison Police Department. An incredible amount of time and effort was dedicated to notifying all members of the community that the City was no longer willing to absorb the high costs of the party. Ultimately, the party was scaled down and the City believed that the tide had turned. “Success” was achieved in so far as City costs incurred were significantly less, arrests from the incident dropped dramatically and joint cooperation and dialogue between residents and MPD was much-improved.
This cooperative effort continued in 2014 between the UW, students and City stakeholders. Due to the successful 2013 event and the significant reduction of arrests, the event no longer required law enforcement assistance from DCSO or UWPD. With the decreased need for staffing, the Department was able to continue a trend in reducing costs related to this event:
2014 2013 2012 2011
OT & Benefits $74,925 $115,881 $159,781 $106,417
Premium Pay $959 $1,027 $1,537 $1,294
Supplies $0 $1,217 $4,504 $178
Subtotal “out of pocket”: $75,884 $118,125 $165,822 $107,889
Straight Time & Benefits $18,162 $25,534 $29,797 $22,653
GRAND TOTAL: $94,046 $141,659 $195,619 $130,542
Information for this blog provided and authored by Captain Carl Gloede.