Our Views: Isolated shooting in town of Milton triggers overreactions

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Monday, October 7, 2013

A shooting in a parking lot outside a town of Milton tavern has stirred up concerns and overreactions.

Sure, any shooting is serious, particularly when a man suffers three gunshot wounds in the back and buttocks. This one occurred after a hip-hop dance party June 22 at Countryside Inn, 1801 E. Highway 59, attracted a large crowd. Authorities including the Rock County Sheriff's Office are wise to take notice and beef up patrols at these types of gatherings.

Sending eight extra deputies to each of the Countryside Inn's next two dance parties, however, seems excessive when taxpayers must pick up thousands of dollars in overtime costs. After all, this wasn't a gang-related shooting; all indications suggest it involved a lovers' triangle, a relationship quarrel that could have erupted most anywhere.

Yes, a nearby gas station complained that a crowd swamped the business and shoplifted alcohol. So some extra deputy patrols are in order. Eight might be overkill.

On the other hand, town officials are considering a new policy that would assess demerit points for violations that could cost a business its liquor license, and that has Countryside Inn owner Rich Erdman upset. Yet absent consistent problems at his tavern, he has no reason for fear.

Erdman argues that Town of Milton Chairman Bryan Meyer and other town officials are considering the new rules to discourage businesses from scheduling aggressive hip-hop music, which can attract crowds of black people from out of town. He believes the sheriff's patrols at his tavern are intended to scare customers away.

Madison and town of Milton neighbor Fulton have enacted similar sets of rules, however. The Milton Town Board is expected to discuss the proposed rules when it meets Oct. 14. The board should not make the rules so restrictive that they squash opportunities for businesses to make money.

Before his most recent dance parties, Erdman installed videotape equipment and hired as many as 20 security guards to check bags and identification and monitor entrances, exits and bathrooms. He's doing what he can, within reason, to avoid more trouble.

Erdman says his business has had only one other problem in the past seven years—when a 2010 wrestling match brought so many customers that he violated the fire code. If his security for future dance parties is sufficient to keep the peace and avoid violating curfew, noise and occupancy rules, a reasonably crafted demerit system should not affect his business.

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