Thursday, July 3, 2008

Police on Illegal Fireworks: Don't Worry, You Won't Get into Trouble

Today there are big stories in both dailies about how the Seattle Police Department doesn't plan to cite anyone for illegal fireworks use this weekend.

In the Times:

Jamieson conceded that if police encounter fireworks, it's likely officers will merely confiscate them and not make an arrest.

And the P-I:

To possess fireworks sold on Washington Indian reservations is to commit a federal crime. But fireworks offenders rarely receive even a slap on the wrist.

Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson said the department's standard practice is to seize fireworks they come across without issuing citations.

"Typically officers will just confiscate," Jamieson said. "If there's a crime associated with it or people are using the fireworks to blow up something, then it's a different matter."

And they're also telling people not to call 911 with reports of illegal fireworks use. (And please don't. Save those calls for when someone gets hurt or when a house catches on fire. Don't tie up the lines unless there's an immediate danger.)

According to the P-I, SPD spokesman Mark Jamieson said, "residents with fireworks complaints should call their area's non-emergency lines, which are listed in the phone book."

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I won't even bother listing that number here for you. (OK, what the hell, it's 206-625-5011.) If you're reporting a rape at gunpoint, you might get a call back sometime during the next business day. I highly doubt they'll be following up on fireworks reports that they wouldn't even cite someone for if they saw them with their own eyes.

***Update: I changed my mind. I think you SHOULD call the non-emergency number with fireworks reports. If you call the non-emergency number, I promise to follow up with the SPD next week and ask them how they're using those reports, which they specifically asked the public to make.

So I can't see why you'd want to waste your time leaving a message at that number, unless after the fact the police planned to analyze the numbers of calls they received from different areas and use them to help dedicate July 4 resources more proportionally in the future. (But I kind of doubt it, as the SPD doesn't seem to be terribly good at dealing with the metrics it's already collecting...)

Besides, they already know where the problem areas are. The increasingly awesome Rainier Valley Post has reported that the police are closing three parks here in Southeast Seattle "due to a "history of violence and pretty severe vandalism" starting in the mid-afternoon on July 4. These are the only three parks in the city that will be closed tomorrow.

The RVP is also reporting that many community members support the temporary closures. A spokesperson for Friends of Othello Park has described past July 4 situations at the park like this:

All the violence in the park culminated in one of the worst shoot outs with more than 50 rounds fired. Bullets were flying every where and into neighbor's houses and hitting parked cars. A man was killed in the park that night and the suspects are still at large. The year before pitbull dogs were seen hanging from trees from their jaws. It is an ugly sight to see.

Try to stay safe tomorrow, folks. Save your 911 calls for shootouts, killings, injuries, fires, and dogs hanging from trees. (And keep your fingers crossed for a little more rain!)


Daphne said...

Funny, based on the park closures, you'd think they already knew where to put their resources.

NoneoftheAbove said...

There were three calls to 911 last night (me and the neighbors) regarding the fireworks at 11pm. Did the police even show up? No.

I'll be filing a complaint with the Office of Professional Accountable.

JvA said...

Please do think about the number of calls being made tonight and tomorrow. I worry that people whose houses are on fire, or whose friends have been seriously injured, won't be able to get through to the 911 operators the next couple nights.

If you do call the non-emergency number for a plain fireworks complaint, I promise to follow up with the SPD next week and ask them what they're doing with all those messages, which they specifcally asked the public to leave.

Anonymous said...

I've had to call 911 a couple of times in the last month, once in broad daylight, the other time around midnight for a large group of teenagers rough-housing either in our driveway or in the middle of the street (Graham). I only called when I thought that someone was going to get seriously hurt...and while no one came at the time (apparently only the sight of a gun will trigger an immediate response), I did see a police car checking out the scene a couple of days after both events. So I recommend reporting whatever you see regardless (esp. if its a serious safety issue), it does get logged, and it will mean more service for our south end areas. They're short staffed, and the only way things change are by putting the numbers in front of politicians. It's certainly not great, but it really could be worse.

Francine said...

Oh, EVERY DAY is the Fourth of July in my neighborhood. Drives the poor animals nuts.

Chris said...

I report everything now. I want it in the database. Let's hope it actually gets in there.

Anonymous said...

Also regarding the 4th, but not about fireworks:

I rode my bike home from downtown on the Fourth of July and ended up going south on First Ave where the Aurora off-ramp is (by the stadium). It was game day and lots of folks were in route. Bicycles and pedestrians were being directed to a sidewalk that is enclosed enough to feel pretty dangerous - high walls, no visibility, no escape route. There was a homeless man with his belongings, and clothing (yes, he was more or less naked)strategically placed to block access. He himself was taking a dump in the middle of the sidewalk. Yuck!

Two police officers were standing around chatting on the opposite corner so I asked if they could take care of it. I was told they were well aware of the situation but because it was the Fourth of July they couldn't do anything about it, warned me against calling 911, sent me biking through the throngs of people on Occidental and went back to chit chatting.

I don't have a problem with homeless people or police. What I do have a problem with is unsafe bicycle and pedestrian routes - especially high traffic ones, sanitation, and officers who use the holiday as an excuse.