While it was almost impossible to avoid the sights and sounds of illegal fireworks on the Fourth of July, initial reports from San Mateo County police departments suggest residents this year filed fewer complaints about them.
“From my perception, it was one of the quietest Fourth of Julys in awhile, though some residents would probably disagree with me,” said San Bruno police Lt. Ryan Johansen. “There was a concentrated period of time where fireworks were rampant, but it was much briefer and it seemed like a switch was flipped at 11 p.m. and they stopped. I don’t know if it was because it was a Thursday or if people were being more reasonable and compliant.”
San Bruno had 49 department personnel on hand for the holiday and they responded to 146 fireworks-related calls for service and made 21 arrests for the possession and/or use of illegal fireworks, according to a press release. Those arrested were released after being issued a citation, which comes with a $1,000 fine. San Bruno police also confiscated 65 pounds of illegal fireworks.
By contrast, the San Bruno Police Department last year received 170 complaints resulting in 25 citations and confiscated more than 400 pounds of fireworks.
Johansen said his department this year again responded in some way to every fireworks-related complaint, but said oftentimes responding to those calls is a distraction. Police often have better success responding proactively, focusing on areas where they observe fireworks or where fireworks historically have been rampant.
This year, the department employed a slightly new model in which marked cars responded to calls for service and unmarked ones responded proactively, Johansen said, adding that police may respond to fewer calls and stick to the proactive approach in future years.
He also said the department may also rely on new enforcement technology, including drones, to enforce the city’s fireworks rules as soon as next year.
The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office responded to 107 fireworks complaints this year compared to last year’s 119 complaints. There were 36 complaints on the coast, 29 calls in the North Fair Oaks area, 23 complaints in Millbrae, San Carlos had 12 and Woodside and unincorporated San Mateo County residents made a total of six complaints, said spokeswoman Detective Rosemerry Blankswade.
The agency also made four fireworks-related arrests and seized 80 pounds of illegal fireworks on the coastside this year. Countywide statistics are still being tallied for this year, but last year the Sheriff’s Office made a total of 10 fireworks-related arrests or citations.
There was also one fire reported on the coast on the Fourth of July, but it is currently unknown if it was caused by fireworks.
Redwood City saw a 13% reduction in fireworks-related complaints this year. Police Lt. Ted Henson said there were 95 calls this year compared to 109 last year and police issued just two citations, though the department issued zero citations last year and made one fireworks-related arrest.
Redwood City recently passed a social host ordinance, which allows police to fine the owner of a property from which a firework was launched, whether he or she lit the fuse or not. Henson said the two citations issued this year were for people who were actually caught red-handed, but he felt the city’s educational campaign about illegal fireworks, which included details about the social host ordinance, likely deterred at least some residents from lighting illegal fireworks.
There were no injuries, no significant damage and no fires in Redwood City Thursday night, Henson added.
San Mateo also saw a sizable drop-off in fireworks-related complaints, from 110 calls last year to just 67 calls this year.
“We had no major incidents or troubled neighborhoods to report,” said police spokesman Officer Michael Haobsh. “There were no citations issued for illegal fireworks, but we did confiscate a fair amount of fireworks.”
Finally, this year’s holiday appeared to be somewhat more tolerable for pets, who often get spooked by exploding fireworks and sometimes flee their homes out of fear.
Buffy Martin Tarbox, communications manager of the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA, said her organization received 14 lost dogs and cats this year, which is down from 21 last year and 30 the year before.
“This is quite remarkable,” she said. “We do believe all of the education people are getting through the news and social media to reduce stress and separation in animals seems to be having an impact based on the numbers we’ve seen at the shelter.”
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