Washington and St. Clair police had their hands full Wednesday night responding to calls about the illegal discharging of fireworks within their respective cities.
Washington Police Chief Ken Hahn said his officers issued at least 15 summonses on the Independence Day holiday July 4.
“I think some people’s mindset is that fireworks are against the law, but not on the Fourth of July,” Hahn said. “It’s illegal (in Washington) every day.”
St. Clair Police Chief Bill Hammack said his officers didn’t issue any citations, but did respond to at least a couple dozen calls.
St. Clair police typically issue a warning for a first offense, Hammack said.
“It has gotten to a point in the community where people know they’re given one free shot, so they’re abusing that,” he said. “Many people said they knew they were in violation, but they knew they would first be given a warning. That’s going to cease. We’re going to change our policy.”
Hammack said officers did not respond to the same place twice on Wednesday, but they responded to some of the same neighborhoods more than once. Officers also had a few illegal fireworks calls on Tuesday night, July 3.
Hahn said his officers responded to fewer calls this year than in years past.
“For the most part, the community was cooperative with our request to not shoot fireworks,” he said. “But there were a few who chose to disobey the law. There were less calls this year … but there were still plenty.”
Hahn said he was pleased overall with the community’s cooperation in both obeying the policy and reporting offenders.
No fires due to fireworks were reported in the area.
“That was our No. 1 goal with the ban on fireworks, no fires,” Hahn said, “and so we consider the policy a success.”
Disturbing the Peace
Hammack told The Missourian on Thursday that officers responding to fireworks calls are potentially prevented from responding to other incidents.
“It’s disturbing the peace,” he said.
The chief said he keeps a log as to who is warned each year. Some of the same individuals talked to this year were repeat offenders from previous years. Still, he said, they only got a warning this year.
“Officers at their discretion could have issued a citation,” Hammack said. “They now have been instructed to do that.”
The punishment for discharging fireworks in the two cities both include fines of up to $500, but in St. Clair people also can be sentenced to up to six months in jail, while in Washington the maximum sentence is 90 days.
Union officials didn’t say what the penalty for violating this year’s fireworks ban would be, but Union Police Lt.. Kyle Ketcher said no citations were issued by Union police.
“There might have been a warning or two, but pretty much everyone was understanding of the extremely dry conditions,” Ketcher said.
At a special meeting Monday night, Union aldermen voted to make it illegal to discharge fireworks on July 4. The ban only applied to this year.
Last year, the city had approved an ordinance allowing fireworks in the city limits on July 4 only.
Union Mayor Mike Livengood said the recommendation to ban fireworks came from the state and local fire marshal.
“It’s bad out there,” Livengood said of the dry conditions.
Hammack also noted the extremely dry weather conditions.
“It’s unlikely one would burn down a house,” he said, “but it would be pretty easy to burn a yard.
“It’s against the law. People just shouldn’t do it. It is illegal,” Hammack said.
Capt. Larry Cook, assistant Pacific police chief, said officers there issued no citations Wednesday, but did respond to some calls.
“It was one of those cases where by the time an officer got there, they were unable to locate any violators,” Cook said.