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graphic showing how root causes (like income, housing, environment) can lead to outcomes (violent crime rates, safety, and incarceration)

  • 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.  

Risk and Protective Factors in Preventing Violence

Poverty, Jobs, and Income


Safe and Affordable Housingphoto of families playing in a park in Madison


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

the rate of reported sex offenses per 100,000 people in Dane County is significantly lower than WIsconsin overall.

  • 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.

1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men report having expereinced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. Source: CDC


Domestic and Relationship Violence

  • 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.

Gun Violence

  • On average, one Dane County resident dies every ten days from a firearm. These are preventable deaths that not only impact those directly involved, but contribute to longstanding ripple effects for the larger community.
  • Beyond gun deaths, many more people experience long-lasting impacts from gun injuries, both intentional and unintentional.
  • Gun-related homicides disproportionately affect BIPOC and youth, while gun-related suicides disproportionately affect people over 75, American Indian people, and white people. 
  • Overall, trends have remained stable in Dane County.
  • For more information, see our data report: Firearm Deaths in Dane County

trends among gun violence (homicides and suicides) have remained stable over the last 6 years in Dane County.


Violent Crime

  • 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

The rate of violent crimes per 100,000 people in Dane County is trending downward and is significantly lower than Wisconsin overall.