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A way Manteca can step up the pressure on illegal fireworks users

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POSTED July 28, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Manteca needs to double down in its battle against the proliferation of illegal fireworks.
It would entail:
uA one-time fee of $500 paid by each of the 15 non-profits that win the city lottery for the right to sell legal fireworks in 2018.
uUsing the $7,500 to pay overtime for 15 police officers and/or firefighters to work in plainclothes and unmarked vehicles on the evening of the Fourth of July  as well as nights leading up to the holiday. They would drive around Manteca using the Nail ‘Em app to build solid cases against those violating the city’s ordinance that calls for citing renters or those who own and occupy homes for allowing illegal fireworks to be launched from their premises.
uUpping the fine for the first time offense from $750 to the highest allowed under state law, $1,000.
uThe proceeds from fines would be set aside for not only paying overtime for 15 police officers or firefighters in 2019 to go after illegal fireworks users, but also to support additional enforcement efforts. After those costs are covered, the rest of the money could be used to pay for the city’s cost of launching aerial fireworks.
If the city were to pursue such a stepped up enforcement program, they would need to cobble it together and adopt it before the end of the year. That would allow it to be in place before the lottery is conducted for the non-profits that will be allowed to sell safe and sane fireworks in 2018. If a non-profit is not in a position to pay the one-time $500 fee, then they can pass on being in the running to sell fireworks during 2018.
Manteca issued 24 citations this year with two officers working overtime. Based on a $750 fine, that will generate $18,000 in addition to recovering the costs of enforcement.
Those who argue getting neighbors to essentially testify against neighbors they get the goods on using the Nail ‘Em app to verify the information they collected — it is essentially to get a judgment against those allowing the use of illegal fireworks — are right that it isn’t going to work for obvious reasons.
If two officers can nail 24 violators, then 15 police officers and firefighters could issue as many as 180 citations.
That would be enough to send a message. And if it isn’t, the city simply keeps deploying 15 officers and firefighters on overtime in subsequent years. Even if they only issue 100 citations a year, that generates $100,000. Since the city also recovers the cost of enforcing the law, the City Council could take $20,000 of that $100,000 and pay for the aerial fireworks show and then use the balance to go after other fire hazards in town such as abandoned buildings.
If people are going to wantonly disregard the law, exacerbate fire dangers, jeopardize public safety, and shatter the public peace by turning Manteca into a de facto war zone, then they’d better be prepared to pay the price.
The non-profits should pay given opening the door for safe and sane fireworks sale and use triggered an onslaught of illegal fireworks being used. They benefit the most financially from any fireworks being allowed in the city of Manteca.
The council could explore writing language into the one-time fee that would give those non-profits $500 credit toward future fees for fireworks booth inspections and such from money the city gets from citations or cost recovery charges.
Upping the fine to $1,000 for every occurrence instead of providing a break by only have a $750 fine on the first time makes sense.
The users of illegal fireworks know they are illegal. They are raising havoc and are responsible for one of the top five biggest ongoing complaints residents have year in and year out.
It is clear that being nice isn’t working too well for Manteca. And unless someone has a better idea, the only solution seems to be turning up the pressure to significantly increase the risk of them being caught. Call it targeted enforcement, if you will.
As several readers pointed out, getting neighbors to testify against neighbors that use illegal fireworks that are also obviously self-centered and lack any concerns about others, is not going to happen. Illegal fireworks are anti-social behavior. One can only imagine what they’d do in terms of harassment if a neighbor basically nailed them and cost them $1,000 plus.
Paying public safety officers double overtime for working on a holiday for targeted enforcement of illegal fireworks is worth every penny.
Not only would taxpayers not be on the hook for the initial year as the costs would be covered by a one-time fee on non-profits that are lucky enough to secure the right to sell fireworks, but in subsequent years the perpetrators will be covering the tab for stepped up enforcement.
It’s a solution that addresses a real problem that is perplexing to address that also creates real health and safety issues. It might be a tad out of the box but the bottom line is simple: Manteca needs to stop illegal fireworks.
And if issuing 100 or so citations a year doesn’t get the message across, at least people won’t get away with flaunting the law due to the low risk of getting caught.

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