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Council: Crack down on illegal fireworks sales
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Manteca Councilman Richard Silverman “wants more bang for the buck” when it comes to municipal efforts to stop illegal fireworks from being discharged in the city.

And to do that he believes the best way is to have police working with other law enforcement agencies well in advance of the Fourth of July to prevent them from getting them into the hands of local residents.

The rest of the council made it clear that they definitely wanted staff to pursue the logistics and feasibility of such an option during Tuesday’s discussion of how to counter the growing use of illegal fireworks in Manteca. Stepped up targeting of illegal fireworks would not just be during the Fourth of July holiday period but year round as well.

Silverman noted two years ago Manteca Police got over 2,000 pounds of illegal fireworks off the streets weeks before the Fourth of July.

They were less enthused about so-called “host ordinances” that target property owners for prosecution when illegal fireworks are set off unless it can be written in such a manner to make tenants responsible.

Mayor Steve DeBrum noted that a  social host ordinance as some other communities have adopted would mean a landlord who may live 300 or more miles away would be held responsible for a tenant breaking the law. DeBrum said he would entertain a social host ordinance with a provision that made the tenant responsible if the actual owner did not reside on the property where the illegal fireworks are launched.

Staff will look at both stepped up enforcement and social host ordinance options and bring more detailed proposals back to the council.

Council members also noted that many Californians may mistakenly believe just because certain fireworks are legal in other states that they are legal here.

Basically, California prohibits fireworks that take flight.

Current city law requires either officers to witness the person firing off illegal fireworks in order to issue a citation or rely on a citizen’s arrest with that person needing to testify in court. It has been ineffective because when officers arrive no one is firing off fireworks or taking responsibility for doing so. Citizens — even those calling to complain about illegal fireworks — are reluctant to get into a tiff with their neighbors. That means the best officers can do is seize the illegal fireworks that no one claims to own.

Under California law, cities can assess a $1,000 fine and only need to provide proof such as undercover officers videotaping illegal fireworks being shot off to tie it to a particular property.

Clovis using a social host ordinance this year was able to legally document 20 instances of illegal fireworks being shot off during the Fourth of July weekend. They sent citations to the property owners along with a notice they are being fined $1,000.