The City Council on Tuesday approved a plan to offer free block party permits for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, but it’s not just to celebrate—it’s an attempt to crack down on illegal fireworks, which have stretched emergency resources thin over the past few years.
Under the plan, people applying for the $100 city permit to host a block party can now get the permit for free, but the applicant has to pledge the party will be a fireworks-free zone. All fireworks are illegal in Long Beach.
Councilwoman Stacy Mungo Flanigan introduced the item in hopes that it would create a community approach to stopping fireworks by putting more eyes on the street, which could make it easier to see where the fireworks are coming from and might also encourage people to report the use of fireworks in their neighborhoods.
“It is really unacceptable the lengths that some people go to break the law and really terrorize our neighbors, our veterans, pets and our families,” Mungo Flanigan said.
She said she hoped that the new program would help put people on notice that illegal fireworks will not be tolerated in Long Beach.
It’s unclear how many free permits could be issued this year, but an official with the city’s Development Services Department said that, on average, the city receives about 70 applications for block party permits, and the elimination of cost this year could push it closer to 100. There won’t be a cap on permit applications.
The city has tried to reduce illegal fireworks in recent years but the Fourth of July holiday and the days preceding it are often filed with increased calls for service for local law enforcement.
During a 24-hour period during last year’s holiday celebration, the Long Beach Police Department received 779 fireworks-related calls but issued just 13 citations due to California law requiring officers to witness the fireworks being set off.
The city prosecutor’s office has created a portal where video and photo evidence can be submitted, which can be used to file criminal complaints against property owners.
At its June 8 meeting, the City Council is expected to consider an emergency ordinance that could allow citations to be issued to property owners and allow the city to charge them the full cost of emergency workers being dispatched to their homes, including the cost to repair any damages resulting from fireworks.
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