‘Operation Pumpkin’ aims to keep streets safe

While ghouls and ghosts will be a common sight on the streets Wednesday evening, “Operation Pumpkin” once again will be on the lookout for the real monsters—vandals and thieves—on “Gate Night.”
“‘Operation Pumpkin’ is where members of the police and volunteers from the community work together to keep an eye on buildings and ensure people are safe on the streets,” said organizer Sgt. Steve Shouldice of the Fort Frances OPP.
“It’s been successful in curbing activity here,” he added. “‘Operation Pumpkin’ has been going on for more than 10 years.
“It’s one of our most successful programs here in town,” agreed Cst. Cam Howard.
More than 30 volunteers will be involved in “Operation Pumpkin” this year, including North Air Services, the Rainy Lake Amateur Radio Club, Rainy River District School Board, Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau, and OPP auxiliary members working with police on patrol Tuesday night.
The Rainy Lake Amateur Radio Club also will co-ordinate patrols and report calls with a set-up at the OPP detachment. School board volunteers will monitor schools around town.
Meanwhile, the former CN station will serve as a warm-up shelter for anyone out on patrol tomorrow night to drop by for some hot coffee.
Volunteers are encouraged not to intervene in any possible crime but instead contact police in case of trouble.
If anyone witnesses vandalism or any other crime on “Gate Night,” or any other time, they should contact the OPP dispatch at 1-888-310-1122. Or if you have a cell phone, you can call *OPP (*667).
While a rash of thefts and acts of vandalism were investigated by police here around “Gate Night” in 1999, there has been very little similar activity in the past two years.
“I’m not aware of any incidents this year,” said Sgt. Shouldice.
The OPP also will have patrols out Hallowe’en night to monitor the safety of local trick-or-treaters. Along with the Fort Frances Fire Department, they also will be on the 300 block of Scott Street for the “Scott Street Scare.”
Meanwhile, police are reminding trick-or-treaters to follow some basic safety rules, including:
•don’t run between houses or across lawns;
•travel in groups and watch out for cars;
•stand outside—don’t go into houses;
•don’t eat any treats until a parent checks them;
•have your face painted rather than wear a mask—you can see better;
•if anyone bothers you, look for a “Block Parent” sign in a house window and have them call your parents or the police;
•parents are encouraged to accompany their child while they make their rounds; and
•consider carrying a flashlight or putting reflective tape on your costume so you can be more easily seen by motorists.