A Janesville police officer responded to a report of shots fired early Monday morning and found 12 shell casings in a driveway.
No one would admit to firing the rounds.
The officer also found illegal fireworks at the scene on Greenwood Drive on the city’s east side and cited a woman for possessing them.
That was one of about 20 municipal citations issued for fireworks possession over the long holiday weekend.
Police Lt. Mike Blaser said Tuesday he didn’t have comparison figures, but officers thought that was more than usual.
The incidents might seem like harmless fun to some, but officers had to consider that when someone reports illegal fireworks in their neighborhood, they might actually be hearing gunshots, Blaser said.
Second-shift officers responded to 20 fireworks complaints Friday, 50 Saturday and 51 Sunday.
Often, officers were so busy with these and other calls that they arrived after a person’s fireworks had all been used. Other times, ordinance violators scattered as police showed up, leaving no one to cite.
“That’s why our arrest rate isn’t as high as it should be,” Blaser said.
Adults who were cited in Janesville face fines of $263. Those 17 and younger can be fined $100.
No one was reported injured, and no fires were started by fireworks in Janesville, although police were particularly concerned about fires because the current drought conditions have left a lot of fuel lying around, Blaser said.
In one incident on Cherry Street on the west side, a bottle rocket “went out of control” just before midnight Sunday, according to a police report, and broke a neighbor’s window.
The city paid overtime July 1 to 6 so two officers could dedicate their time to fireworks enforcement. Even so, officers were hard pressed, with 88 calls of all kinds during second shift Friday, 144 Saturday and 153 Sunday, Blaser said.
Police announced June 30 they would be cracking down on illegal fireworks.
Second shift had 10 officers on Friday and 11 on Saturday and Sunday, plus the two officers assigned specifically to fireworks, who worked from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.
All reports have not been completed, but a police analysis of reports Tuesday showed 20 citations issued from Thursday through Monday. All were men, ranging in age from 23 to 70. The citations peaked at 10 on July 3, with six more July 4.
Each incident represents work that includes finding the offenders, interviewing witnesses, photographing the fireworks and disposing of them before writing reports.
“That’s a lot of hard work by our officers this weekend,” Blaser said.
Blaser said police tried to educate people about the dangers of fireworks, but sometimes they issued tickets. A rule of thumb in Wisconsin: If it explodes or leaves the ground, it’s illegal.
“We try to be reasonable, but at the same time, there are certain safety factors that we just can’t be reasonable with,” Blaser said.
One of those factors is the inebriation level of some holiday revelers police encountered.
“Speaking with those who have been drinking a little bit can be a challenge,” Blaser noted.
Complicating matters, some local fireworks vendors were handing out papers that appeared to be permits to use fireworks. Those “permits” were bogus, Blaser said.
Police confiscated all the illegal fireworks they found and deposited them in a tub of water at the police department, reports indicate.
Blaser said the illegal fireworks ranged widely in the power of their explosions, from bottle rockets and Roman candles to mortars that launch exploding shells high into the air.
Many residents enjoyed the colorful displays, but fireworks upset others.
One Janesvillian wrote his complaint to police: “Residents in this home have been setting off illegal, off-the-ground fireworks around this time of year for years now, and I would like them to stop before they set something on fire. The noise is bothering everyone in the neighborhood as they continue to set them off until midnight some nights.”