City adds new fees to fireworks citations that could cost violators thousands of dollars

Getting caught lighting off fireworks in Long Beach could costs violators thousands of dollars after the City Council approved an updated fee schedule Tuesday night that will allow the city to pursue the “actual cost of response” in additional to its $1,000 base fine.

The new fees could include charges for storage and disposal of any fireworks seized during a response by the police department, hours spent during police investigations and collections of evidence, the use of fire personnel to address property damage or injuries and time spent by other city departments leading up to administering citations.

An estimate from the police department said those costs could range from $5,080 for a small seizure of fireworks to $19,460 for a larger seizure. A city presentation did not include estimates from the fire department, which could also be added to the total assessed penalty.

“One of the things that is very important is that we create a city that is not welcoming to light fireworks in and that the consequences are greater than the joys of lighting the fireworks,” said Councilwoman Mary Zendejas, who represents the Downtown area.

The updated fees are the latest effort by the city to try to crack down on illegal fireworks leading up to the July 4 holiday. All fireworks, including the “Safe and Sane” varieties sold in neighboring cities, are illegal in Long Beach.

Earlier this month the council amended a city ordinance to add a “host liability” clause that expands the pool of people eligible to be cited, including property owners and landlords, in addition to any tenants who may be the ones lighting the fireworks.

The city’s previous law required a police officer to witness the fireworks being used, but now evidence tying them to a home can result in a citation being issued by the city attorney.

The council also approved a motion this month that will give block party permits to residents for free. The permits would be granted to residents who pledge to operate a fireworks-free zone.

Residents can still use the fireworks reporting portal that was created last year by the city prosecutor’s office that allows video and photo evidence to be shared with the city in an attempt to identify residents who are allowing firework activity to happen on their property.

Data submitted to the portal will now be shared with the city attorney, who can use the information to issue administrative citations and “cost of response” fees. The city prosecutor could also still pursue criminal charges if necessary.

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.