Long Beach to crack down on illegal fireworks in preparation for New Year’s Eve

In preparation for the New Year’s Eve celebrations—which often end in firework shows when the clock strikes midnight—Long Beach is doubling down on its efforts to curtail the use of illegal explosives in the city.

Long Beach has deemed all fireworks within the city’s boundary illegal, including the “safe and sane” type that can be purchased legally in some neighboring cities. Having fireworks or setting them off in the city can result in six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

In the week leading up to and on New Year’s Eve, residents will see an increase in police patrols, according to a memo from the city manager’s office.

The Long Beach Police Department is dedicating additional officers to increase enforcement on illegal fireworks and to respond to areas where fireworks are being set off, the memo stated.

The city said that this approach is data driven and focuses on areas previously identified as having high fireworks activity. Enforcement operations will also focus on vendors who illegally sell fireworks leading up to the new year, the memo states. Earlier this month, officers from the department’s West Division confiscated about 5,000 pounds of illegal fireworks.

The city has been long struggling to implement stricter punishment for illegal fireworks for a few years now, as calls to the police and fire departments have increased.

Then LBPD Deputy Chief Richard Rocchi told the Post in 2015 that the department received 635 “pyro” calls for service that year and 550 calls related to fireworks use in 2014. Last year those calls resulted in 50 citations and six arrests and the seizure of over 700 pounds of both illegal and “safe and sane” fireworks. The city formed a Fireworks Committee in June and adopted the Illegal Fireworks and Explosives Action Plan, which outlined steps the city could take to enforce bans on illegal fireworks.

The challenge has mostly been around enforcement. Officers have to physically see a person lighting a firework before they can cite them.

Along with calling the police to file a complaint, residents can also file reports and upload images or video using the city prosecutor’s office fireworks portal.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify a source’s former title. 

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Sebastian Echeverry is the North Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of his grant-funded position with the Long Beach Post. If you want to support Sebastian's work, you can donate to his Report for America position at lbpost.com/support.