Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Police, public not having a "blast"
Are Winnipeg residents are getting a little paranoid about the amount of recent gunplay they've seen, heard and read about on city streets?During the past couple of nights (Monday June 30, Tuesday July 1), 911 operators have been flooded with calls from concerned citizens who believe their neighbourhoods might be hosting the latest gang-related shoot-out.I'll let the words of one very tired sounding dispatcher - overheard on the police scanner at about 2 a.m. Tuesday - explain what's really been going on."Happy Canada Day," he said, with all the enthusiasm of a man going in for a root canal.Our country's birthday has always been a popular time for people to show their national pride by sending colourful balls of fire screaming into the sky.
And yet I can't remember ever hearing about so many fireworks celebrations being mistaken for gunfire.I believe this year's large volume of calls - which tie up considerable police resources as every one must be investigated - is a direct reflection of the growing fear many Winnipeggers have with regards to guns.Drive-by shootings are seemingly happening every few days. A home was riddled with bullets in broad daylight just last week. A teen got shot in the leg while playing a game of "Russian Roulette" with friends a few days ago.A man was gunned down on a crowded Pembina Highway hotel patio earlier this spring. Three men were shot dead inside an Alexander Avenue home a few months back.The stories go on, and on, and on. And I think the public has now been conditioned to believe that it can happen anytime, anywhere.I'm sure most of the people who have called 911 the past few nights believed they were probably just hearing fireworks. But they probably were thinking "better safe than sorry" when they picked up the phone.And who can blame them?However...There might be some blame to go around for those responsible for setting off fireworks...and false alarms.A quick read of the City of Winnipeg website shows that anyone wishing to "blast off" must first apply for, and obtain, a permit
.Just a guess here, but the majority of these late-night pop-pop-pops are likely coming from folks who haven't bothered to ask Uncle Sam (Katz) for permission.I'm not sure how many by-law offences are being handed out - but it's clear the issue is a significant one in terms of tying up valuable police resources.So here's my questions for you.Should some of these citizens just relax a bit and enjoy the sights and sounds? Have you been jolted from sleep by fireworks? Have you dropped a dime on your festive neighbour?Post your comments below.