As I write this, we are approximately two months from the July 4th celebration. Each year, in all communities, the holiday is used as a justification for the discharge of illegal fireworks. Each year, the Oakley Police Department receives hundreds, if not thousands, of complaints regarding illegal fireworks on July 4th. The complaints range from pets that are extremely frightened by the noise and commotion of fireworks, to veterans who suffer an adverse reaction to fireworks. Last year, several fires were reported, these fires were ignited by the careless use of fireworks. All fireworks are prohibited.
The Police Department has tried a variety of strategies over the years, from public information campaigns, to a zero tolerance approach and heavy enforcement. Each of these efforts has had limited effect. On years when we tried the educational approach, we were criticized for not doing enough enforcement. On years were we tried the enforcement approach, we were accused of being heavy handed and “un-American”!
We are trying a two-pronged approach this year. We have received tips from citizens regarding repeat firework offenders. We are contacting those offenders and advising them we will be focusing on fireworks activity in their neighborhood. Additionally, we have purchased signs for distribution advising that a homeowner who is a veteran lives at the location. Asking people to be considerate of emotional distress that may be caused by the use fireworks.
Finally, this year we will have additional Police Department staff on, specifically to focus on fireworks related complaints. Emphasis will be placed upon seizing fireworks and citing those who possess them. Our goal has always been, and will continue to be, voluntary compliance with the law. As you can imagine, placing extra staff on the street for the evening costs money. These resources could be spent in other areas.
Several citizens have already reported repeat/chronic offenders using our e-mail system. You can find the illegal firework reporting location on the City of Oakley web site (http://www.ci.oakley.ca.us/report-illegal-fireworks/) under the Police Department home page. If you would like a Veterans sign for your yard, please pick one up at the Memorial Day Observance event that will be held at the Civic Center Park on Saturday, May 27th starting at 10:30 a.m. These can be put up a week prior to the holiday, but taken down within a week after. The signs are free of charge while supplies last.
Each year, the City of Oakley hosts a celebration of our Cityhood. This year this celebration will be held on July 1st. The celebration culminates with a large, professional fireworks display at the Freedom Basin Park. Please join us at this celebration and forgo the unlawful fireworks. Illegal fireworks are dangerous, they harm your neighbor, they are a fire hazard, and they are costing valuable Police Staff resources that could be used in other areas of the City. Please join us in celebrating legally this year!