2017-07-14 / Front Page

Fireworks calls trigger extra patrols

Four citations issued over 5 days
By Melissa Simon

SAFETY ISSUE—All types of fireworks are illegal in Simi Valley and most of Ventura County. Fillmore is the only city in the county that allows the use of state-designated “safe and sane” fireworks, which include sparklers and snaps. SAFETY ISSUE—All types of fireworks are illegal in Simi Valley and most of Ventura County. Fillmore is the only city in the county that allows the use of state-designated “safe and sane” fireworks, which include sparklers and snaps. Despite a variety of options to view legal fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday, many residents are still choosing to put on illegal displays in their neighborhoods, according to authorities.

From June 30 through July 4, the Simi Valley Police Department received 210 calls related to illegal pyrotechnic displays, said SVPD Cmdr. Roy Jones. Four citations, all for infractions, were issued for fireworks violations during the five-day holiday weekend.

Of those calls to the department’s fireworks hotline, 125 triggered extra patrols in the areas reported. And over the course of those five days, police were dispatched a total of 61 times to specific locations around the city in response to those displays.

Jones said the number of calls has stayed “pretty flat” over the last few years and is less of a problem than when he first started as an officer 25 years ago. While it may not seem so to residents, he said, the number of violations citywide has actually decreased.

Last year, police received a total of 254 calls for illegal fireworks, including 105 responses to specific areas. In 2015, 182 calls came in to SVPD. Those figures are down significantly from 2005, when 870 calls came in, Jones said.

“No matter what we do (with enforcement), people still don’t seem to get that fireworks are illegal,” Jones said “We’re trying to get folks to comply with the laws because we don’t want to be arresting kids with sparklers, and for the most part they do (comply). But there’s always a few people who don’t think they’re going to get caught.”

All types of fireworks are illegal in Simi Valley and most of Ventura County. Fillmore is the only city in the county that allows residents to purchase and use “safe and sane” fireworks, like sparklers, which bear the seal of the state fire marshall and are legal in California.

Jones said any confiscated items are given to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office for disposal. Those caught by an officer using fireworks illegally may be issued a warning with no penalty, or a citation, which can be an infraction or misdemeanor. Fines start at $100 for infractions and $2,500 for misdemeanors, according to police.

Sherrill Strotham, 78, said the illegal fireworks shot off near his home on Malcolm Street seem to have gotten worse over the years.

“I thought it would get better after fireworks were banned all those years ago, but I was wrong,” Strotham said. “Every year around the Fourth of July, I talk to so many people who have the same reaction, ‘Here we go again.’ They have to buy drugs (to sedate) their pets and it’s just not right.”

Stacey Rosenberg, a 37-yearold mother of two young children, said she didn’t mind that people wanted to shoot off fireworks but was irked by the late-night and early-morning booms.

“When I was a kid we used to play with sparklers (and there was) no harm done. I’ve always heard them, but it seems like the problem is getting progressively worse,” she said.

“My dog has never freaked out like this before; he was shaking for quite a while. Next year we might have to give him something to calm him a bit.”

Dave Carter, who lives off Fitzgerald Road near Ascension Cemetery, said the booming must have been traumatic for veterans who live in the area.

“The explosions, for lack of a better word, are pretty heavy and you can almost feel a percussive effect if you happen to be outside when one goes off. It’s crazy,” the 58-year-old said.

“There seems to be a real lack of regard for others, especially when there are multiple huge booms going off in the early morning hours.”

Strotham said police should be doing more than issuing warnings or citations.

“Something more has to be done. Maybe they should deputize some people that can ride bicycles undercover in certain areas (where fireworks have been reported). These people need to be caught,” he said.

But Jones said the difficulty with enforcement is that possessing or using fireworks, albeit illegal, is a misdemeanor crime and offenders must be caught in the act. The only exception is if the firework uses TNT or similar explosive material.

“The bottom line is that illegal fireworks should not be used because it puts people, homes and other property in danger, especially during fire season,” the commander said. “There’s never a justification to do it.”

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