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Lathrop Police, Fire work to crack down on illegal fireworks
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On Wednesday night, there were four Lathrop police officers and four Lathrop-Manteca firefighters working in tandem to issue citations to those lighting off illegal fireworks.

And that was in addition to the regular staff working that night, including Lathrop Police Chief James Hood who was out handling calls.

The end result, according to Hood? Things stayed almost exactly the same as they were the year before. 

“Every year, on New Year’s Eve and on Fourth of July, I get a phone call from the mayor about how it sounds like a ‘war zone’ outside,” Hood said. “And this year the city manager asked me to work that night to get a handle on this situation, and after being out there I have to agree with him — it did sound like a war zone. 

“And on several of the calls that I responded to people were confrontational to the point that I had to call for backup. It’s something that we need to look at again.”

While the problem of illegal aerial and exploding fireworks is not unique to Lathrop, the city has taken steps in recent years to strengthen its ordinances and provide the funding necessary for enforcement saturation patrols in order to target offenders and enhance the overall safety of residents. 

It was Hood that made the suggestion to implement a “host” ordinance that allows responding deputies and fire officials to issue citations to property owners where illegal fireworks are being used, and after increasing the fines for violators and giving the city attorney the ability to prosecute cases rather than referring them to the San Joaquin County District Attorney, Lathrop was hoping to get a handle on the issue this year. 

While the end result appeared largely to be the same as previous years, Dhaliwal said that he saw one way in which the enforcement appeared to have worked — the length of time they were being fired. 

Dhaliwal said he didn’t hear any fireworks after 11 p.m. Wednesday night when he was expecting the loud booms and bangs to continue into the early morning hours like they did last year — proof, he says, that having addition personnel on the street made a difference. 

“I want to thank Lathrop Police Services and the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District for being vigilant, but this is something that we’re going to have to discuss and put our heads together and see if there’s something that we can do,” Dhaliwal said. “I can say that if there was anything good that came out of it, it was the fact that the fireworks didn’t go on all night like we’ve had in the past. 

“It was like there were two hours there where was it bad, and then it stopped, and I think the enforcement may have had something to do with that.”

Hood, who said nine citations were issued last week for violating the city’s ordinance, noted that while there were some residences that were compliant when officers responded — even going so far as to go into the house and return with any other illegal fireworks for destruction and disposal — he ran into people that bordered on combative when told that they were breaking the law. 

No major incidents were reported on Wednesday, save for two men who were arrested for shooting a shotgun into the air, but Hood said that it may be time for the council to look at bolstering things even more. 

“I think the fine for first-time offenders is something like $500, but maybe that needs to be something like $5,000 — it needs to hurt in order to be effective,” Hood said. “Maybe that’s something that the council should consider looking into for next year.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.