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City of Elk Grove to consider options on illegal fireworks, including banning all fireworks

City of Elk Grove to consider options on illegal fireworks, including banning all fireworks

At the city council meeting on Wednesday, November 13, the Elk Grove City Council will hear a staff report on illegal fireworks activity and enforcement.

One of the options presented by staff is a complete ban on all fireworks, including the legal “safe and sane” fireworks. The staff report does appear to steer clear of a complete ban and instead recommend continued enforcement and increased public awareness. A ban would hurt local non-profits and force law enforcement to go after legal and illegal fireworks.

From the staff report:
The use of illegal fireworks on and around the Independence Day holiday
generates a high volume of calls to the Elk Grove Police Department
(EGPD). On July 4, 2019, over 250 calls were received between 7 PM and
11 PM, reporting the use of illegal fireworks. The same time period in 2018
generated over 290 calls.

The City Council received additional feedback from residents in 2019, asking that further effort be placed on the deterrence and enforcement of illegal fireworks activity. The volume of illegal fireworks activity experienced in recent years has been large and, though staff is seeking feedback on program enhancements to improve the situation, it is highly unlikely that any of the proposed improvements will fully eliminate the use of illegal fireworks within the City of Elk Grove.

City and CCSD staff have met and identified options to augment current
fireworks enforcement efforts. These options utilize a combination of
regulatory and staffing efforts to deter the possession and use of illegal
fireworks.

City Staff came up with 3 possible options

Option 1- Move the Salute to the Red, White, and Blue
This option would increase the number of police officers available for
fireworks enforcement by moving the City’s Independence Day celebration
“Salute to the Red, White, and Blue” (RWB) from the night of July 4th to
another day near the holiday. In 2019, any available police officers not
assigned to regular patrol duties were assigned to staff the RWB at Elk Grove Regional Park, leaving few or no police officers to provide fireworks patrols to the rest of the city. This commitment is close to the totality of staffing that EGPD has available. EGCE and CCSD also dedicate resources to the RWB to address illegal vending and monitor the fireworks show set up and execution.

Moving the RWB to another date would allow increases to the number of
police officers that can be deployed into neighborhoods to both proactively
enforce illegal fireworks activity and quickly respond to calls for service
related to fireworks. Although staff believes this could improve response
times and increase the number of fireworks seized and citations written,
there is no certainty that such an effort would have a noticeable impact on
illegal fireworks activity on the evening of July 4th itself. It is quite possible
that moving the RWB could have the counter consequence of increasing
neighborhood fireworks activity with no lo
cal event to attract the public.

Option 2- Prohibit all fireworks
The City could adopt an ordinance prohibiting the use of all fireworks, both
legal and illegal. One challenge to enforcing illegal fireworks is the ability to quickly identify and respond to the location of illegal fireworks activity.
Currently, the night of July 4th sees legal fireworks displays on many streets in Elk Grove. Many of these displays also have bright flashing lights and loud explosions, causing the illegal fireworks activity to fade into the sights and sounds of legal activity. Prohibiting all fireworks would allow task force units to better identify the location of an offender and clear streets to quickly respond to that location to make contact.

There are drawbacks to prohibiting all fireworks. First, the City and County
of Sacramento are not exploring a firework ban. Elk Grove residents would
still be able to easily and legally purchase Safe and Sane fireworks. This could leave the task force units enforcing the full prohibition of fireworks on Safe and Sane users, which could dilute the effort of pursuing illegal firework users. Safe and Sane fireworks are also a significant source of fundraising revenue for Elk Grove non-profits. To fully prohibit fireworks would leave these non-profit organizations searching for other ways to raise money.


Option 3- Continue current efforts in 2020 and increase public outreach
Acknowledging that Options 1 and 2 would not significantly reduce the level of illegal fireworks activity, while dedicating a large number of resources (Option 1) or creating the negative effect and extra burden on community organizations (Option 2), Option 3 would see the EGPD, EGCE, and CCSD continue the task force model used in 2018 and 2019. Though illegal fireworks activity did continue in 2019, staff did experience fewer calls for service to EGPD dispatch and increased response levels over 2017 when no task force existed.

Enforcement improvements in 2018 and 2019 were combined with additional public outreach efforts. Though staff cannot tie the reductions in calls for service or illegal fireworks activity that was experienced since 2017 to these public outreach efforts, continued use of direct mailings, leafletting of certain neighborhoods, and increased social media messaging could result in a further decrease in levels of illegal fireworks activity in future years.

Continuing to use this model in 2020, while seeking improvements in
available investigative techniques and regional collaborations, should
produce a further reduction in illegal fireworks activity and an increase in the amounts of fireworks seized and individuals cited.

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