Santa Barbara police chief responds to illegal fireworks issue

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By Lauren Bray, edhat team

The Santa Barbara Police Chief sent council members an update on their actions to curb illegal fireworks demonstrations following citizen complaints.

Online forums such as edhat and Nextdoor.com were inundated with posts and comments regarding nighttime fireworks in several neighborhoods.

Many people in the Westside and Eastside neighborhoods complain of being woken up at all hours of the night by “windows banging booms” and their pets cowering in fear. The discussion also mentions the possibility of responses to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the sheer embarrassment of it all.

Many comments urge residents to contact their council members and ask for an update on what could be done to resolve the issue.

Oscar Gutierrez, Santa Barbara City Council member for the Westside Ward, responded on Nextdoor.com thanking residents for reaching out and provided an email sent to the council by Police Chief Bernard Melekian .

Melekian said the city’s police and fire department responded to calls for fireworks on July 4, although a large majority of their resources between 2 p.m. and midnight were focused on crowd and traffic control. along the waterfront. Security sweeps were also carried out on high-rise buildings and several waterfront hotels were visited.

“Every 4th of July, the volume of fireworks calls far exceeds the resources available to respond to them. We try to respond to the most egregious calls and keep as many units as possible available to respond to other major incidents. As a resident of the city, I was certainly aware as early as 3 a.m. that there were still fireworks. As has happened in recent years, it seems that the number of fireworks that exploded has diminished over the past two days,” Melekian said in his email.

From the afternoon of July 4 to the early morning of July 5, there were a total of 76 fireworks calls for service.

Here is the breakdown of those calls:

  • 16 calls for fire inspectors responded to the area
  • 51 Be On The Lookout (BOLO) For All Police Department Units Working, Officers Responding To Areas As Other Higher Priority Calls Permit
  • 22 calls to police who responded to the area and cleared due to suspects “left on arrival” or unable to pinpoint the specific location
  • 2 calls cleared for issuing a warning
  • 1 appeal handled with a referral to juvenile diversion
  • 3 appeals settled with citations issued
  • 1 call handled with suspicious circumstance report and verification of the premises
  • 1 call cleared with domestic trouble report and premises check
  • 1 call cleared with verification of the well-being of minors

With the list of calls and responses posted, residents weighed their thoughts.

“Hate to be pessimistic but this list is gibberish to me and the letter says absolutely nothing about how to fix the problem or even attempt to fix it,” one person wrote. “I hear and see fireworks even now, two days after 4th of July, like I was the week before…” said another.

While it appears law enforcement is responding to calls for illegal fireworks, it’s unclear how this issue can truly be resolved, or at least appease frustrated residents.

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