Residents Decry (Their Frequent Term) "City Fail" On July 4-5 With Worsened "Warzone" Levels Of Bombs And Explosives; Some Say LBPD Drove-By/Didn't Stop Visible Illegal Activity; LBFD Dealt With Ten Tree Fires Plus Ten Others Of Various Types (Won't Say Any Are Fireworks Related As It Didn't Witness Ignition Source)
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|(July 5, 2020, 6:20 a.m. updated 9:45 a.m.) -- In bluntly worded terms not sparing elected officials, residents in multiple Long Beach neighborhoods described (their frequent term) a "massive city fail" that enabled "warzone" levels of ground based bombs and mortar launched pyrotechnics (both of which are contraband/prohibited statewide.)
Residents of some neighborhoods said explosions began in the afternoon on July 4th and in some cases continued into the 2 a.m. hour July 5.
As of 3:30 a.m. July 5, LBFD Public Information Office Capt. Jack Crabtree said LBFD had responded to roughly 20 fires, 10 of which were tree-related, 8 involved brush/grass related fires and two involved dumpster or roof-related fires. (LBFD will be adding photos shortly of a dramatic tree fire in the Carson Park neighborhood south of Heartwell Park (LBFD declines to confirm if these fires were fireworks-related as it didn't observe the ignition source.)
One of the ten trees that somehow caught fire on July 4 was on Knoxville Ave. south of Heartwell Park in the Carson Park neighborhood. Ghazal Seino, who captued the scene (photo below), tells LBREPORT.com that LBFD was on site VERY swiftly and the responding firefighters "did an amazing job."
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July 4, tree set afire, Knoxville Ave. near Heartwell Park. Photo courtesy Ghazal Seino
A grassroots Long Beach Against Illegal Fireworks Facebook page -- a private page launched in late May that has grown to over 1,700 members -- contains detailed descriptions of what its members saw/heard in their neighborhoods on July 4-5. Because the page is private, we've sought permission from its administrators to publish anonymized (no name) descriptions here that we consider highly newsworthy. If we receive permission, the content will be added here. .
Some residents say LBPD units drove past and didn't stop visible fireworks activity. One such incident in NLB was captured on video (permission to embed pending.) In the 15th St./Cherry Ave. neighborhood (4th dist), LBREPORT.com has reviewed VIDEO showing neighborhood residents watching children ignite mortar launched rockets; at the same location, ground based incendiary devices ignited near a parked vehicle and a residential building while adults said police units previously drove by but didn't stop.
The charge that at least some LBPD units failed to abate visible illegal fireworks activity comes just over a month after LBPD declined to stop looters in the Pike and downtown area, triggering intense public criticism. LBPD Chief Robert Luna subsequently told the Council's Public Safety Committee that the decision was made by units in the field based in part safety considerations. (The Committee [Price, Supernaw, Austin] didn't follow up on this and the Committee didn't allow telephonic public input.)
Annual Council-approved budget actions have left LB without roughly 180 police officers that LB had (prior to 2009-2015 Council approved budget reductions) but no longer have now despite the 2016 Measure A sales tax increase (that brought City Hall roughly $60+ million annually in General Fund ("blank check") revenue.
The Council has also failed (for several years) to pursue administrative enforcement for illegal firework activity, a method first suggested by LBREPORT.com in 2017 used by a number of cities to deter fireworks scofflaws. Administrative enforcement allows the City to impose hefty civil fines that don't require police involvement (or criminal prosecution with proof beyond a reasonable doubt.) Instead of criminal prosecution, non-sworn or sworn personnel can cite a person (hand them a citation or send them a notice) of the alleged unlawful activity, triggering a civil hearing decided by a City Hall chosen hearing officer who can impose levels of fines decided by the City Council. In 2019, city management recommended against this and no Councilmember sought to challenge that recommendation...until the Illegal Fireworks Facebook page surfaced. A June 23 Council agenda item then appeared (brought by Councilman Al Austin (seeking re-election in Nov. 2020) that directed city staff to pursue the feasibility of a number of measures, including administrative enforcement for possible future use (too late for application this July 4th.)..
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