Long Beach, like many other cities across the country, has been plagued with more illegal fireworks than usual this year.
So the city is cracking down on the issue.
The City Council voted unanimously at its Tuesday, June 23, meeting to move ahead with a series of items to increase enforcement against those who are shooting off — or even found in possession of — fireworks.
Among the items the council approved are:
A request for the City Attorney to draft an ordinance that would extend the city’s fireworks ban to include owners or tenants of any property where fireworks are found;
A request for the City Attorney and City Manager to look at options for increasing the penalties for anyone cited or arrested for fireworks violations;
A request for the City Manager to consider creating a publicly accessible heat map of incidents of illegal fireworks and explosives in Long Beach; and
A request for the City Manager to work with Veterans Affairs to create a program to assist veterans with PTSD who have been impacted by the abundance of illegal fireworks.
To aid in these efforts, City Prosecutor Doug Haubert’s office has created an online portal for people to report and submit evidence of the use of fireworks in Long Beach, all of which are banned in the city.
Disaster Preparedness Director Reginald Harrison said during Tuesday’s meeting that calls for service related to fireworks are up 25% so far over the same time period last year, and the calls are coming in from all over the city.
“We haven’t found a concentrated area that I’m aware of at this point,” he said. “It seems like they’re pretty well distributed throughout many neighborhoods in Long Beach.”
Police Chief Robert Luna said his department has done its best to handle calls for fireworks so far, but he said officers have also been tasked with managing 60 protests that have taken place in the city in recent weeks.
“Hopefully,” he said, “those will slow down a bit.”
Meanwhile, the Police Department is compiling maps for officers to have when they go out in the field to respond to fireworks calls, Luna said.
With those maps, Luna said, “they can go out and identify specific addresses or locations where it’s a continuous challenge for us.”
Both the council members and city staff members said they were doing what they can to respond to a problem that cities are facing nationwide.
“I will acknowledge that this is a unique time and an odd issue to be talking about — enforcement,” Eighth District Councilman Al Austin said, referencing the ongoing push in Long Beach and elsewhere from activists to defund police departments and use that money to invest in community resources.
“But, you know, we do live in a society made up of laws,” he said, “and this is about being a good neighbor. This is about respecting your neighbor.
“These (fireworks) are very disruptive to the quality of life, but also the mental health of many of our neighbors and residents,” Austin added, “so let’s keep that in mind as we move forward. I appreciate the conversation, and I look forward to hopefully getting some productive results on this.”