FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A social media challenge is causing problems at Promenade Park in Fort Wayne.
It’s called the Orbeez Challenge and it’s been popular on TikTok for a while, but Fort Wayne police tell WANE 15 it’s now becoming an issue downtown.
“They’re having these shootouts with the Orbeez guns in the park. Unfortunately, the Orbeez guns can be hard to distinguish from real firearms. Some are brightly colored, but some are not and so you have children down here with what looks like real firearms getting called in,” Detective Marc Deshaies with the Fort Wayne Police Department’s Gang and Violent Crimes Unit said.
The Orbeez guns are toys that shoot little gel or water pellets. But, they shoot out very fast and it can be painful to be hit. The beads can even cause welts.
“The kids are shooting themselves or people who don’t want to be shot,” Sgt. Jeremy Webb with the Fort Wayne Police Department said. “They can play with their guns, but do it in a safe environment or on private property or at a local business where it’s encouraged, but not in a public park. It’s illegal.”
It’s against city ordinance to have any projectile shooting – toy or not – in a city park. Fines can range from $50 to $200 per offense. Repeat offenders could also be banned from all city parks for a year including city-run splash pads. But, if someone shoots someone else on purpose? That can lead to a battery charge.
“Right now, it’s a balance of being hit by accident and children being nefarious and targeting passersby thinking it’s a joke,” Deshaies said.
It wasn’t a joke to a food vendor who was recently shot in the legs and called police.
“He was targeted below his shorts line,” Deshaies said. “It left red welts on his legs.”
Police are stepping up patrols and responding to complaints. Just this past weekend, several juveniles were arrested in Promenade Park for fighting.
“It’s easy to imagine if they are shot and don’t want to be shot and it hurts and then they say who shot me and it escalates,” Webb said.
Police said dozens of kids will often be in the park past park hours and after Indiana curfews.
“I’m not sure how we’re getting 60 to 70 kids down here at night without parents noticing,” Deshaies said.
Which is why police are asking the patrols to start with parents.
“If you know your kids are going to the park, make sure they don’t have an Orbeeze gun,” Webb said. “It diverts resources we could use elsewhere. Enjoy the parks for what the parks are for, but don’t violate the rules of the parks.”
All city parks are open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Anyone there afterhours will be asked to leave.
“As the kids are being forced to leave [Promenade Park] after it’s closed, some properties on the Landing are getting vandalized, so now the problem is bleeding off into the Landing and other local businesses. We want to stop that as well,” Webb said.
In Indiana, people under 18 years old have to be home by 11 p.m. during the workweek and by 1 a.m. on weekends.