"Warzone" CA-Contraband Fireworks (Again) Impact Wrigley, Parts of NLB And Central LB, Sporadic In Parts Of ELB...After Long Beach Mayor/Council Fail To Pursue "Administrative Enforcement" -- Procedure Not Requiring Police But Carrying Hefty Fines -- That Other Cities Use To Deter Fireworks Scofflaws
Amnesia File: LBREPORT.com reported on it nearly a year ago
Amnesia File: LBREPORT.com reported on it nearly a year ago
|(July 5, 2018, 7:55 a.m.) -- Similar to last year, multiple Long Beach neighborhoods experienced CA-contraband (mortar launched rockets, M-80 style explosives) on July 4, 2018.
Wrigley area residents reported what they described as "warzone" level explosions, building in intensity from late afternoon, peaking at mid-evening, subsiding in most areas by about midnight although residents in some areas (Wrigley/Redondo Ave. corridor and Los Cerritos) reported hearing scattered blasts into the 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. hours. Wrigley area residents have reported on social networks hearing near-nightly explosions by fireworks scofflaws for the past several weeks.
North Long Beach News sent Facebook LIVE video and reported that parts of the northern 8th district and parts of 9th district saw/heard mortar launched rockets and M-80 type explosions. Residents in the Central LB corridor from downtown to roughly Redondo Ave. also reported heavy impacts. Parts of ELB appear to have escaped the worst of it with sporadic mortar launched rockets and explosions...with an eerie roar of explosions from LB neighborhoods westward.
A Wrigley area resident posted this video clip to Facebook and told LBREPORT.com it was recorded in the area of Magnolia/Willow.
[Scroll down for further.]
LBPD phone lines (9-1-1 and 435-6711) were jammed.
As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, other cities use administrative citations -- civil notices, not misdemeanor criminal charges -- in their efforts to deter fireworks scofflaws that don't require police officers or other sworn peace officers. LB's Mayor and Council (including its "Public Safety Committee": Price, Supernaw, Austin) failed to pursue systemmatic and aggressive use of the administrative process despite last year's reported "warzone" fireworks. (LBREPORT.com reported on this option nearly a year ago.)
Instead, the City of Long Beach continued to rely on its "all fireworks are illegal" messaging while leaving LB's thin police level (nearly 200 fewer officers than LB previously had, only 17 citywide deployable officers restored by Mayor/Council despite Measure A sales tax increase) to issue misdemeanor criminal citations. Misdemeanor criminal citations require an officer to actually witness the crime committed (or a citizen to swear to it) plus a formal court proceeding where the defendant may assert multiple defenses and the prosecutor has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
In contrast, administrative notices of violation don't require a police officer and don't require a formal court prosecution but can still impose hefty civil fines. Some cities begin with warning letters that escalate into fines of $1,000 or more; others impose fines immediately...and the fines are easier for cities to sustain.
The process differs from city to city, decided/customized by their individual City Councils. In some cases, a police officer/peace officer may hand out an administrative citation (always risky, requires police-level training.) In other cities, City Hall uses online emailed reports from residents and sends the alleged scofflaw(s) a notice of violation.
A person receiving an administrative fireworks notice of violation typically has the right to some type of civil appeal hearing, often handled by city-hired hearing officer (instead of a court judge.) The city-hired hearing officer can impose the fine without the difficult criminal prosecution standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The person found liable in the civil administrative process either ends up paying the fine or facing unpleasant city debt collection actions.
It's not a panacea or cure all. History shows that prohibition repeatedly fails against behavior in which large numbers of consumers want to engage if the price is lower than the likely consequences; it's a deterrent that may deter some but not deter all.
LB's City Attorney's office would (obviously) first have to opine and guide the Council on what the City can and can't legally do and within those parameters the LB City Council could fashion the administrative penalties.
The City of San Jose has been using the administrative process as part of an online fireworks reporting system described on its website as imposing fines of $500 for a first violation, $700 for a second violation (within 18 month period from date of previous violation), $1,000 for a third violation (within 18 month period from date of previous violation). The city offers an online reporting form to map where fireworks are being used and, with accurate information, may result in the issuance of citations to fireworks users. "Using the form will not result in enforcement officers being immediately dispatched to the scene," the City of San Jose's website says.
Perhaps anticipating another year of "warzone" fireworks conditions, on June 19, 2018 (the final regularly scheduled City Council meeting before July 4) Councilmembers received an LBPD/LBFD report that (again) doesn't mention using administrative citations. Instead, it states:
This year, in an effort to respond to increased reports of illegal fireworks on the nights of July 1 through July 5, the Fire Department will deploy two additional patrol vehicles, each staffed with two Arson Investigators. These additional units will work in conjunction with the Police Department's proactive patrols. Patrols will continue to target areas of the City historically known for frequent use of fireworks, as well as respond to reports of illegal fireworks activity Citywide. Anyone cited or arrested for fireworks violations may be issued a $1,000 fine, sentenced to jail for up to six months, or both...In addition to the above measures, the Fire Department is working with the City Prosecutor to develop processes to help public safety staff to better identify users of illegal fireworks...
A few minutes earlier at the same Council meeting, Councilwoman Suzie Price (chairs the Council's Public Safety Committee) introduced a related fireworks item she agendized. "In working with our Fire Department, last year my office set up a committee of Third District residents to become better educated on the topic and develop recommendations." she wrote in allowing a "Third District Residents Fireworks Committee" to present a report on "mitigation recommendations."
Nearly a year after LBREPORT.com first reported on it, the "Third District Residents' Fireworks Committee" (independently of us) recommended "administrative enforcement."
Councilwoman Price thanked the Committee for its volunteer efforts and said: "The administrative citation option is something that my staff is researching now to bring back as a potential agenda item in the future." Councilwoman Stacy Mungo added that she believes the "Go Long Beach app" might be helpful with an administrative process. Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce agreed with Mungo. Mayor Garcia also thanked the Committee.
Neither the 3rd Dist. Citizens Committee nor Councilwoman Price nor the Mayor nor any other Councilmember(s) publicly asked why the City isn't using this tool now. The Council voted to receive and file the report.
LBREPORT.com followed-up. Assistant City Attorney Mike Mais said [our summary description] that LB's Municipal Code contains the legal foundation for using administrative proceedings to handle fireworks-related misdemeanors. [In other words, the legal foundations has been in place for some time.]
LBREPORT.com invited a denial or explanation from city management as to why the City of LB isn't using administrative citations for the upcoming July 4th holiday period, and hasn't used it in areas (like the Wrigley area) which report chronic problems with fireworks scofflaws. City of LB Public Affairs Officer Kevin Lee told LBREPORT.com on June 29 that he's looking into the matter and will try to have more information in the coming week.
LB's Municipal Code doesn't currently include a detailed mechanism for administrative enforcement specific to fireworks. It has a "catch-all" provision allowing administrative enforcement of multiple Muni Code sections, including fireworks.
Implementing administrative fireworks enforcement raises a number of issues, among them: should the City issue a warning letters first? How large should the fines be? What kind of evidence/proof should the City consider or require? What protection(s) will be in place to prevent someone with a grudge from falsely reporting a neighbor? What happens when an individual says he/she was inaccurately or unfairly or falsely fined as a scofflaw? These are the types of issues LB's policy-setting City Council could pursue.
Again: it's not a panacea, but an additional tool the City of LB could have used this year if LB's Mayor/Council had acted last year, but can presumably pursue now for use next year...or sooner.
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