SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A 7-year-old girl and her pregnant mother were shot inside their Port Hueneme home Tuesday night and the Police Chief says the response may have been delayed because illegal fireworks were going off in the area and no one called in the gunshots.
The lack of reporting in this case highlight the dangers illegal fireworks can present. Officials say it goes beyond a scare to pets, vets, senior citizens, and kids.
Law enforcement up and down the Central Coast are on the lookout for those illicit light shows and gave our cameras an up close and personal look at the firework crackdown with a ride-along.
As of Wednesday evening, patrols were honing in on both illegal fireworks and “safe and sane.”
“Safe and Sane” fireworks are only allowed to be lit off on July 4th from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“I understand when people say it’s not that big of a deal because for some of us, fireworks may not bother me or may not bother the person we’re talking to but it bothers a lot of people in the general area,” said Sgt. Nate Totorica, Santa Maria Police Department.
For Sgt Totorica, it’s all about assessing the needs of the community.
“Being part of the enforcement, being part of what the city needs, that’s what we signed up to do,” said Sgt. Totorica.
From June 30th to the Fourth of July, special teams of seven to 13 Santa Maria Police officers are tracking those big booms and unlawful pyrotechnics in the sky.
“It’s easy to say for the Firework Detail, there is nothing more important for us to do,” said Sgt. Totorica.
These special patrols and additional resources don’t take away from the regular patrol division, out and about as well.
“These go up in the air they pop, they make a whistley sound when they do that. Kind of like that, exactly like that,” said an officer on patrol, pointing out illegal fireworks shooting up into the sky as they were issuing a citation for a separate round of illegal fireworks.
For the Firework Enforcement Detail, its a slow start before sunset but the minute it gets dark, it’s constant calls, sparks, and flare. One after another, until their shift is over
“We are initially here to address some fireworks going off on the side and now some officers have just identified people shooting fireworks on this side,” explains Totorica as another round of a dozen fireworks go off into the air.
Each citation is a thousand bucks a pop but officers have to be able to identify who lit the firework.
New city rules only require one witness complaint as opposed to two and Totorica says the app “Nailem” allows officers to have a more successful rate of enforcement.
“Online reporting is really our best defense it’s the community and law-enforcement coming together,” said Totorica.
So far the Firework Detail has handled over 50 calls for service. Before Totorica’s Wednesday night shift, officers had issued 13 citations and seized around $1,000 dollars in fireworks. He only expects it to ramp up from here.
“If we can prevent the nuisance, if we can prevent people’s peace from being disturbed, just by having extra patrol cars out there, that’s ultimately what our goal is,” said Totorica.
Firework enforcement will be out both Wednesday and Thursday nights until midnight.
As of 10:00 p.m. Wednesday, Totorica says four additional citations have been issued. “Activity has definitely increased tonight compared to yesterday,” he adds.
Officials say they are just asking citizens to abide by the laws and take their neighbors into consideration.