For America’s birthday, happy Minnesota families played lawn games, sipped beer on boats, and waved at neighbors across garden fences with grilling spatulas. As night fell, they gathered along bridges and rooftops to watch fireworks spark the skies across the Twin Cities skyline.
The last of the suburban shows wrapped up by 11 p.m., but blasts of fireworks went on. And on. And on.
Launched furtively in driveways and streets until the break of dawn, they forced quaking pups underneath beds, terrorized veterans suffering from PTSD, and pitted neighbors who had to drag themselves to work in the morning against those who just wanted everyone else to lighten up.
Most everyone can spot contraband -- sparklers are kosher; anything that flies or explodes is not -- but bringing the hammer of the law down on the fuse-lighting hooligans is not so easy. For one, it’s not so clear who to call about it and how, once called, those authorities are expected to help.
In 2015, Minneapolis Police asked angry neighbors to call 911 about fireworks only in cases where someone got wrecked, something got set on fire, or pyromaniac mobs started threatening the general peace.
Minneapolis 911 typically receives 300-400 noise complaints per hour on the evening of the Fourth, police wrote at the time, which ties up the lines for everybody else dealing with violent crimes and medical emergencies. Let 311 have the noise complaints, police suggested.
This year, the 311 office cleverly closed for the holiday, and could not be recruited to help with the annual flood of callers. Still, workers returned to find grumpy voicemails and emails.
According to the city, 911 calls decreased significantly as well, with only 53 people calling the cops about fireworks on Tuesday. None of those calls generated a police report, says Minneapolis Police spokeswoman Catherine Michal, which means no bootleg explosives were confiscated.
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