Manteca Police teamed with other agencies to take a record 14,000 pounds of illegal fireworks off the streets of San Joaquin County on Thursday.
A coordinated team led by Manteca Police Sgt. Greg Beall included detectives from the Manteca Police Department, Stockton Police Department and San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant on a home in the 2400 block on Country Club Drive in Stockton after bomb squad personnel from these agencies identified a person that was selling illegal fireworks on Craigslist as 40-year-old Stockton resident James Clark.
When officers arrived with a search warrant, they encountered a warehouse of fireworks including roman candles, aerial mortars, and other illegal fireworks and explosive devices – totaling 14,000 pounds when they were all tabulated and accounted for.
Clark was arrested and transported to the San Joaquin County Jail where he was being held on charges of possession of a destructive device, possession of a destructive device near a pre-school advertising for illegal fireworks and possession of illegal fireworks for sale in excess of 5,000 pounds.
Some of the fireworks were determined to be unstable prompting them to be destroyed.
The collaborative effort was part of the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office task force to drive down the usage and the trafficking of illegal fireworks within the county. According to a press release that was published on Friday on the district attorney’s website, those caught with illegal fireworks can be cited, charged up to $50,000 and potentially jailed depending on the severity of the circumstances.
Illegal fireworks are classified as sky rockets, bottle rockets, aerial mortars, Roman candles, firecrackers and other types that move on the ground in an uncontrolled manner. That includes modifying safe and sane fireworks to do the same.
And while the county as a whole is cracking down on illegal users of fireworks, cities themselves are also tightening their regulations to make it easier to catch those who violate the law and ensure that those that are cited are prosecuted.
Get a citation in Manteca
this year and it can cost
you as much as $5,000
Manteca, working with the DA, is now positioned to issue citations that can lead to a $5,000 fine. Last year using just the administrative law process, Manteca cited 27 people for shooting off illegal fireworks. That resulted in a $1,000 plus hit for each person cited — $750 for the fine and the cost of citing and prosecuting.
Manteca also utilizes the “Nail Em” app that allows residents to take video of people shooting illegal fireworks and mark the geographic location so that citations can be issued. If a person is not willing to sign an affidavit and testify, the city can’t prosecute. But even if that is the case the information they receive via the app is used as solid intelligence for the following year. In the coming days, for example, such information obtained from the app last year will be used to determine where to deploy enforcement officers. Fire Chief Kyle Shipherd has noted there will be more enforcement officers on the street this year as opposed to 2017.
In Lathrop, the city strengthened its own policy to allow for the City Attorney to prosecute those that were written citations, and Lathrop Police Services will be working side-by-side with the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District to identify and respond to residences where illegal fireworks are being used.
In the past, Lathrop has had several fires that were attributed to illegal fireworks, including a home that had its roof catch fire when a spent bottle rocket landed and ignited the roof below it.
The bust in Stockton on Thursday marks the largest since the District Attorney formed the task force last year of law enforcement and fire agencies throughout the county to help combat the rising problem.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.