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Gun-related deaths raise safety concerns as tourists flock to Milwaukee

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Chuck Quirmbach, Wisconsin Public Radio

Two more gun-related homicides in Wisconsin during the last week have pushed the statewide death toll to 48 so far this year.  Both of the recent deaths occurred in Milwaukee, where city officials are trying to balance community safety and tourism.  

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Milwaukee police said that Marshall Cruz, a 24-year-old Hispanic man, was shot to death early Wednesday morning apparently during an illegal drug transaction. In a separate incident, Bryson Brown, a 34-year-old African-American man, was killed on Tuesday afternoon in a gas station parking lot. 

The death toll could have been much higher as about 20 people were wounded during the shootings, including 14 in a three-day stretch ending last Monday.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett called the gun incidents "insane," but he said most of the city is very safe.

"This activity is concentrated in some small neighborhoods, but I care about the people in those neighborhoods," he said. "So, in terms of what's going on in this city and all the great things going on. I'll shout from the rooftops that this is a great city and people should come here."

David Capstick, of Hutchinson, Kan., was visiting Milwaukee for the convention of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, and said that he has been in Milwaukee before and had no qualms about coming back. Capstick said he has been out to see the sites.

"We don't think about it. We just do it!" he said. 

Capstick said that mayors like Milwaukee's Barrett have to be both safety-conscious and welcoming.

"You have to promote your city or it's going to die. You know, I don't care whether it's 600 or 60,000 or 600,000. Downtown Milwaukee, we've never had a problem," he said.

Tens of thousands more visitors will arrive in Milwaukee soon for the Summerfest music festival, Milwaukee  Brewers baseball games and other events.

State tourism officials often promote the city when selling people on coming to Wisconsin. 

More Wisconsin Public Radio news is available at www.wpr.org or by tuning in to KUWS-FM 91.3.

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