Enforcing The Ban

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Police have issued the order: Report smokers to 911 when Omaha's ban takes effect October 2. The officials who run the emergency communications center are urging people to first call upon their common sense.

The new law doesn't go into effect until 12:01 Monday morning but the Douglas County 911 Center has already received some phone calls from people reporting smokers. Authorities there say people need to think before tying up emergency resources with a smoking complaint.

Ever since Omaha Police issued the directive on Wednesday urging people to call 911 to report violations, the reaction has been one-sided. Smokers and non-smokers even agreed.

Justyna Caldwell says, "It's ridiculous to be honest; very ridiculous."

Ruth Bennett adds, "I'm all for the smoking ban but I think police could be doing other things like busting people for drugs and more serious crimes."

Those who would be fielding the calls want to make sure their emergency services are used wisely.

Douglas County 911's Mark Conrey says, "There's enough going in the City of Omaha that we really don't want the Omaha Police Department to become the smoking police."

A smoking call would receive low priority. That said, police would still have to check it out when the more serious complaints are checked off the list. Some officers tell Channel 6 that would all but remove them from doing proactive police work.

Conrey says, "Only when it seems that the establishment doesn't care about enforcing the ordinance, that's when we want to know. That's when we send someone out to investigate. It has to be that way. We don't need 10 phone calls every time someone lights a cigarette."

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