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Bullets over Janesville: Gunfire figures in four recent incidents

JANESVILLE

Police Chief Dave Moore said increasing numbers of guns could have played a role in a recent spate of shots-fired incidents in the city.

Police responded to three shots-fired incidents on Sunday and a fourth incident the previous Monday, an unusual string of firearms incidents for Janesville.

Only one person was hit by a bullet in the four incidents.

But the incidents are concerning, Moore said, adding that officers have reported increasing numbers of firearms being found lately.

“Our officers encounter more guns out in the field than we used to, and there seem to be more weapons available, and I guess if you have more weapons available, you’re going to have more illegal activity with guns,” Moore said Monday.

Moore said officers found one person carrying a gun during a drug arrest last week, while a second weapon was found under a car seat.

“It’s just a reality for our officers out in the field that there are more firearms,” Moore said.

“They need to be very vigilant,” Moore said of police officers. “They know those weapons are out there.”

Moore said his department’s detectives and Street Crimes Unit were called in to handle the incidents early Sunday morning.

“We don’t wait until Monday morning. Matters are investigated immediately and with any resources required,” Moore said.

“Nobody’s getting away with any gun crimes recently,” Moore added. “In every incident, we’ve made arrests.”

Handguns figured in three of the four shots-fired incidents.

In the fourth incident, which stemmed from a clash between cruisers on the Milton Avenue circuit, a man who apparently felt threatened fired an AR-15 rifle from a car but said he shot into the air and not at anyone, according to a criminal complaint.

A shotgun was found in the same car. The occupants had used them recreationaly on Saturday, one of them told officers.

Moore said in some of the recent incidents, those firing the guns possessed them legally. But in several incidents over the past year, men were arrested for being felons in possession of firearms.

Moore has said in the past that police and jail officers often hear from criminals that the word on the street is not to bring their guns to Janesville because police will arrest them.

“I guess that’s not an absolute because we are getting some,” Moore said.

“Of course it’s concerning, but it’s also a reality of our communities today,” Moore said. “Open a newspaper. Look at the TV media, statewide or nationally. There are just more of these types of crime, and that’s a reality of America today. Janesville is different because we’re solving them all, but we’re not immune from that type of crime.”


Anthony Wahl 

A stop sign is reflected in many rain droplets on a car windshield in Janesville on Monday. It rained throughout the day as temperatures reached 39 degrees. Today is forecast to be rainy and even warmer, and temperatures are expected to hover between the high 30s and low 40s throughout the week. See Weather on Page 7A.


Walker's reinsurance proposal likely to pass Legislature

MADISON

Scott Walker’s plan to hold down Obamacare premiums is poised to pass the Senate and Assembly this week—a potential victory for the Wisconsin governor in passing his re-election agenda.

The so-called “reinsurance” bill charts Walker’s arc from fierce opposition to the Affordable Care Act—particularly in the lead-up to the 2016 Republican presidential primary—to a partial acceptance of it. The shift reflects both the failure of Congress to repeal Obamacare and the governor’s own desire to slide toward the center ahead of a difficult general election this fall.

Walker has repeatedly rejected federal money to expand Medicaid health programs for the poor. But with Assembly Bill 885, the governor seeks to accept federal money to help hold down rising costs within the Obamacare individual insurance exchanges for those who make too much to qualify for federal subsidies.

“Obamacare is collapsing. Washington has failed to fix it. Wisconsin will lead!” Walker tweeted Monday.

The Assembly and Senate will take up the Obamacare plan today or Wednesday, sending it to Walker by the end of the week. Lawmakers wrapping up their work for the year are also taking up Walker bills to replace a troubled youth prison and require more welfare recipients to work.

On the Obamacare plan, Sen. Jon Erpenbach of Middleton and other Democrats have questioned why Walker is accepting one pot of federal funding while rejecting the extra federal money for Medicaid. The governor has argued the federal government can’t afford the Medicaid funds over the long term.

“If that (federal Medicaid) money won’t be there, how will this money be there?” Erpenbach asked last week of the reinsurance plan.

Joined by one Democrat, Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee last week approved Walker’s plan. In doing so, GOP lawmakers committed to paying the state’s estimated $50 million share of the reinsurance program without outlining where the state would find that money.

The budget committee also ordered the Walker administration to study bringing back Wisconsin’s high-risk insurance pool, which was phased out after the passage of Obamacare.

With the ACA marketplaces in Wisconsin, the past year has seen the loss of insurers and premium increases of 38 percent, not counting federal subsidies. To hold down those increases, Walker’s plan would pay as much as 80 percent of the insurance claims of people with high medical bills, decreasing insurers’ costs and enabling them to set lower rates.

This so-called reinsurance program is similar to one in Minnesota that is estimated to have lowered premiums by 20 percent this year compared with what they would have been otherwise. Oregon and Alaska also have established reinsurance funds, and federal reinsurance was also present in the ACA for its first three years.


Scott Walker


 

Dave Moore


Local
Cities of Janesville and Beloit against a new training facility

TOWN OF BELOIT

Police chiefs in Janesville and Beloit are standing against a proposed law enforcement facility in the town of Beloit, claiming existing facilities in Rock County are sufficient.

Other police departments, including Milton and Clinton, support such a facility, saying a modern training center is needed in the area.

Beloit Town Administrator Ian Haas and Police Chief Ron Northrop proposed a new facility in a Feb. 1 letter to neighboring departments. The plan is “in its infancy,” they wrote, and the existing shooting range the Town of Beloit Police Department uses is “not very functional.”

“There is a need in the area for a range,” Northrop told the Beloit Town Board on Monday night. “Departments have to go and pay an extravagant amount.”

Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore disagreed, saying Janesville’s shooting range—the La Prairie Pistol Range—is “very reasonably” priced. The department currently charges $100 to rent a four-hour time slot and $175 for an eight-hour time slot, he said.

Many county police departments used Janesville’s shooting range in 2017, including the cities of Whitewater, Beloit, Milton, Evansville and Edgerton. The Secret Service rented the facility twice.

The town’s sketch for a new facility includes an eight-lane outdoor shooting range, from 25 yards to 100 yards, modern training equipment, and gravel and concrete movement areas.

Janesville’s shooting range has indoor and outdoor areas.

Haas said the budget for the town’s proposed facility could be around $250,000, but the town would seek grants and private donations instead of using taxpayer dollars.

Northrop noted that the town has operated a shooting range and training spot for several years.

The range is located on a parcel of land off South Walters Road. In March or April, construction on a new public works facility is slated on that plot. Haas and Northrop want to use the new construction as a means to rehabilitate and enhance the existing range.

“All we’re doing is partnering with other agencies and giving them other options,” Northrop said.

Even if no other law enforcement agency supported the range, Northrop said, “We are going to develop it.”

“It’s not something that we’re starting just from the ground and doing this,” he said. “We have an existing area. We just want to build on it and make it better for that area.”

Milton Police Chief Scott Marquardt said his department is currently working on a letter supporting the facility.

“It’s always good to have multiple different options,” Marquardt said. “Then if the Janesville range is busy, we’ll have another range to go to. I think having another facility in the area is helpful.”

Clinton Police Chief Dave Hooker agreed, saying there aren’t any good range facilities in “this part of the county.”

“It would be a modern facility, which would allow us to train for things occurring today, like an active shooter,” Hooker said.

Beloit Police Chief David Zibolski strongly opposes the facility. He said the town didn’t reach out to him, and he doesn’t understand where the need exists.

“It just seems rather odd if you ask me,” Zibolski said. “There’s plenty of firing ranges around. We have no need whatsoever.”

Moore also said the Janesville Police Department will not sign a letter of support.

The Beloit Town Board will determine whether to support the facility at its next meeting March 5.