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Manteca puts teeth into law targeting illegal fireworks use
Manteca firefighter Traig Smith holds a firework mortar tube that shoots into the sky and is illegal in Manteca. Anyone caught with them can face a $750 fine after mid-June under ordinance changes adopted Tuesday by the City Council. - photo by HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo

Those opting to launch illegal fireworks after mid-June had best prepare for a rude — and expensive — awakening.
Not only will Manteca’s police and firefighters be empowered under new city law to pin blame for the discharge of illegal fireworks on those that control the property it sits on — either tenants, renters or owners if they occupy the home — but a firm that legally sells Safe and Sane fireworks in California may help equip irked citizens with apps that will compile evidenceneeded to enforce Manteca’s new law.
The council adopted tougher measures against illegal fireworks Tuesday just nine months after they directed staff to come up with a solution that will effectively penalize those who continue to violate city laws by discharging pyrotechnics that are illegal in California.
Dennis Revell representing T-n-T Fireworks told the council the industry is almost ready to roll out a free app they will make available to cities.
It would allow anyone to download it and record illegal fireworks being shot off and to send them directly to police departments. The videos, if they can be tied to a specific property by showing structures and the address, would meet the evidence threshold for the new ordinance.
It also will use geo positioning to pinpoint the exact location. There is also the capability for the app to access a data base of parcel numbers to make it absolutely clear where illegal fireworks are launched from.
Revell said Manteca is being offered the opportunity to be the first of 50 cities to receive the free apps.
The new ordinance that goes into effect 30 days after the second reading at the May 17 council meeting will be enforceable year round:
 The ordinance:
uEliminates the need for law enforcement to actually see a person discharging illegal fireworks. Instead all they have to do is ascertain the property that illegal fireworks were launched from.
Makes whoever has immediate control of the property — if it is not owner occupied then it is essentially whoever rents or leases the property — responsible under a social host approach. That means landlords won’t be held accountable for their tenants breaking the municipal ordinance banning illegal fireworks.
Moves the fines and citation process from the courts to administrative citation enforcement. This typically speeds the process up plus assures that a penalty will be assessed when evidence is presented.Allows a third party to put in motion an administrative citation by signing an affidavit. Similar to a witness to any other criminal activity, the witness will be required to attend an appeal hearing  if the person cited request one — and testify if necessary.
Establishes a fine of $750 for the first violation and $1,000 for a second violation in the same calendar year. Prior fines were established by the court system.
Allows the police and fire departments to recover response costs for incidents created by illegal fireworks. This could easily add hundreds of dollars to the fine.
Requires groups authorized to sell legal safe and sane fireworks at booths to produce and distribute to customers— at their cost — fireworks education flyers and anti-illegal fireworks flyers.
The change also prohibits anyone under the age of 18 to enter a fireworks booth at any time. Currently children are prohibited from selling fireworks.
City law allows the sale and legal discharge of safe and sane fireworks to start seven days before July 4 on June 27. The city rules mirrors a state requirement that cities choosing to allow legal fireworks to be sold in their jurisdiction to also allow them to be discharged using the same time period they are sold
The city’s current ordinance is virtually ineffective in putting a dent into the discharge of illegal fireworks — a year round occurrence in many Manteca neighborhoods. That’s because it requires law enforcement to witness the person firing off the illegal fireworks or for a citizen to step forward and make a “citizen’s arrest” in concert with a police officer.
City officials have noted in the past when complaining neighbors are asked to do just that by officers who arrive on the scene but don’t witness an illegal discharge, they typically decline as they don’t want to get into a neighbor versus neighbor situation by having to testify in court.
Officers responding — when they don’t see who discharged the fireworks — will ask those they find at the location who did launch them. No one ever points the finger at anyone. That means the best officers can do is to seize any illegal fireworks that they see.
Cities that have switched to so-called “social hoist” ordinances have seen major impacts.
Clovis in 2014 had no success at holding those discharging illegal fireworks responsible. But with the social host ordinance in place, Clovis last 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.
Illegal fireworks typically are those that can take flight.