Conning Constituents: City Hall's "July Weekend Public Safety Statistics" Try To Hide Reality That LBPD Made Only ONE July 4th Fireworks Related Arrest
Conning Constituents: City Hall's "July Weekend Public Safety Statistics" Try To Hide Reality That LBPD Made Only ONE July 4th Fireworks Related Arrest
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(July 11, 2021, 5:35 a.m.) -- Despite "warzone" level fireworks reported by multiple neighborhoods on multiple social networks, a July 7 City of Long Beach release titled "Fourth of July Weekend Public Safety Statistics) (text below for convenience) hides the fact that on July 4th LBPD made only one fireworks-related arrest, a felony.
LBREPORT.com spotted this because we checked LBPD's daily booking log. It shows one arrest/booking as of early evening July 4th of an individual on suspicion of violating LB Municipal Code 18.48.720 on possession, storage, sale, exposure of fireworks for sale (a misdemeanor) and CA Penal Code section 69 prohibiting attempts by threats or violence to deter/prevent an executive officer from performing their duty or similarly knowingly resisting the officer.
Most of LBPD's other 22 July 4 arrests were for domestic violence felonies and other serious offenses but for not for fireworks related offenses.
The release basically tries to con constituents. It's one of the most numerically obfuscatory documents we've ever seen from LB City Hall.
The release states that on July 4th LB Dispatch received 511 fireworks-related calls which were part of 3,852 total calls that produced 1,261 calls-for-service. However it doesn't say how many, if any, of those calls for service were fireworks-related..
The release acknowledges that only a fraction of nearly 300 fireworks related complaints to a City Hall online "portal" will result in relief. The city prosecutor's office (that at trial has to meet the high criminal law burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt) says fewer than 5% of those complaints were adequate for "investigation" that may or may not bring possible prosecution.
The release precedes these damaging data with a congestion of provably failed actions: fireworks seized months ago, social media posts, billboard signs, ads in print and digital media [LBREPORT.com received none], community "toolkits" and participation at community meetings.
In our opinion, Police Chief Robert Luna needs to respond to this year's fireworks fiasco by publicly acknowledging some overdue facts:
[Scroll down for further.]
(1) Past and present actions by the Long Beach City Council have left LB taxpayers with a thinner per capita police level than L.A., Santa Monica and Signal Hill.
(2) LBPD's command staff has tried to deal with LB's thinned officer level by using overtime (to respond to continuing shootings) but on days like July 4th that simply doesn't suffice.
The City Council ultimately needs to restore roughly 200 officers -- 20% of LB's previous police level -- that LB taxpayers had but no longer have (despite voters approving the Measure A "blank check" sales tax increase.) A prior Council -- that included Robert Garcia -- erased those officers in budgets from 2009-2014, making Garcia responsible in part for the largest reduction in police officers for taxpayers in the more than 100 year history of the City of Long Beach. It's an action other area cities didn't take against their taxpayers to weather the "great recession."
(4) The current Council can begin by restoring the 48 officers that the Council defunded in approving City Hall's FY 21 spending budget (Sept. 2020 9-0 vote with Pearce prior to Allen/CD 2 and Andrews prior to Saro/CD 6).
(5) It may make sense to have social workers handle some tasks officers now deal with, but funding them can come from changing other City Hall spending, including reducing Mayor Garcia's nine-member staff (that serve him, not taxpayers) and rolling back recent city management hires and reducing senior management "$200,000+ club" raises.
(6) The City of Long Beach could apply administrative enforcement to fireworks scofflaws -- which Lakewood and other cities do -- that would avoid requiring a police officer personally to observe commission of a fireworks misdemeanor and would spare the city prosecutor having to deal with criminal justice delays and a high burden of proof. Administrative enforcement lets City Hall deal with fireworks scofflaws in a civil proceeding carrying high fines but with a lower standard of proof making it easier for the City to prevail. LB City Hall has begun applying administrative enforcement to property owners that allow the scofflaws but doesn't do so against the scofflaws themselves, a double-standard that makes no sense.
Long Beach's Council incumbents can implement these corrective reforms or rely on more obfuscatory city management releases that try to cover up the problem. That latter will leave LB voters to deal with five fireworks-failed incumbents in 2022.
[City of Long Beach July 7, 2021 release text]
Fourth of July Weekend Public Safety Statistics
Number of fireworks-related cases to be investigated for prosecution already triples from last year; 270 reports to be considered for potential civil fines
Long Beach, CA - To ensure an enjoyable and safe holiday for all, last month the City of Long Beach encouraged residents and visitors to celebrate safely over the Fourth of July holiday weekend and reminded residents that all fireworks, including those labeled Safe and Sane, are illegal in Long Beach.
Ahead of Independence Day, the City communicated its Celebrate Safely campaign to educate the public about the hazards of fireworks and the consequences of setting off fireworks illegally. The campaign consisted of expansive social media outreach, educational billboard signs, advertisements in print and digital media, community toolkits, participation at community meetings and more.
As the State has fully reopened and everyday activities have resumed, the city’s coastline was filled with visitors from across Long Beach and around the world. Residents and visitors had an opportunity to view a professional fireworks show over Alamitos Bay on July 3 and overlooking the downtown waterfront on July 4. This year, residents who requested a block party permit and pledged the gathering would be fireworks-free received a free permit, a Long Beach City Council plan passed in an effort to prevent illegal firework activity and encourage people to report the use of fireworks in their neighborhoods. A total of 68 block party permits were issued this year, all of which pledged to be fireworks-free. Last year, the City did not issue block party permits due to COVID-19 precautions; in 2019, 62 permits were issued.
The City takes seriously the job of enforcing illegal firework activity. Last year, the Long Beach City Council directed the City’s Fireworks Task Force to develop an amended Ordinance and allocated $350,000 to provide additional enforcement tools and an increase in penalties to effectively reduce the negative impact of illegal fireworks in Long Beach. Last month, in an effort to bolster fireworks-related enforcement efforts throughout the city, the City Council unanimously passed the enhanced, emergency fireworks ordinance within the City Health and Safety Code, outlined in Long Beach Municipal Code Chapter 8.81, which created a new fireworks ordinance specific to the City of Long Beach and expanded the scope of liability and penalties associated with illegal fireworks activity. In the newly passed City ordinance, if someone ‘hosts’ an event with fireworks, they could be held responsible. A ‘host’ includes property owners, tenants, property managers or anyone who organizes or is in charge of the fireworks activity, and in addition to fines they could now be liable for around $20,000 in response costs.
Several fireworks-reporting options were made available via the City’s fireworks information hub. Reporting options included submitting a complaint via the City Prosecutor’s Fireworks Complaint Public Portal (Public Portal), calling the City’s Communications Center non-emergency line and emailing the local police patrol division where the fireworks activity was occurring. This year, more than 270 complaints related to fireworks were reported via the Public Portal. By this time in 2020 more than 460 complaints had been reported via the Public Portal, representing a 52% decrease in cases reported so far this year. However, only three of the Public Portal complaints reported last year provided sufficient evidence to prosecute, whereas this year nine cases reported through the Public Portal have already been identified as having sufficient detail to be actively investigated for prosecution as the Prosecutor’s Office continues to review this year’s portal complaints. Per the new ordinance, all 270 reports may also be considered for potential civil fines for the host of the property, if criminal prosecution is not possible. The Prosecutor’s Office continues to provide extensive outreach to the public, encouraging residents to call police and use the Public Portal to report fireworks activity. This year, door hangers were distributed to 2,500 properties in areas associated with high fireworks complaints. Additionally, when a specific location can be identified for fireworks activity, the City Prosecutor issues letters to the property owners and tenants notifying recipients that the discharge of illegal fireworks constitutes a public nuisance and that prosecution under California Penal Code section 373a (with up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine) may commence if the public nuisance persists. This year, 32 letters have been sent to date.
As thousands of people flocked to the City’s beaches and parks, additional public safety personnel from the Fire and Police Departments were on duty and ready to provide emergency response. Over the holiday weekend, from Friday, July 2 through Sunday, July 4, Long Beach Fire Department (LBFD) personnel responded to a total of seven fireworks-related incidents and experienced a 59% increase in total calls compared to the average number of calls received on other days of the year. Long Beach lifeguards responded to emergencies and made 91 swim and boat rescues along the oceanfront, Bayshore, Marina Park and the Colorado Lagoon on July 4, doubling the number of rescues typically performed on a Sunday during the summertime.
Also during this year’s enforcement efforts, from December 2020 through July 4, over 23,069 pounds of fireworks were recovered by the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD). In comparison, last year, 808 pounds of fireworks were recovered; and in 2019, 14,231 pounds of fireworks were recovered in the months leading up to the Fourth of July. LBPD enforcement efforts have resulted in 27 fireworks-related, adult felony arrests and 41 fireworks-related, misdemeanor arrests since December 2020. On July 4 alone, police enforcement resulted in 23 adult felony arrests, 15 misdemeanor arrests and 15 fireworks-related citations. LBPD has identified 99 incidents from May 1 through July 5, 2021, in which officers documented information related to illegal firework activity on body-worn cameras. Videos of these incidents are being reviewed and will be submitted, along with any supporting documentation, to the City Prosecutor’s Office for filing consideration. Last year, on July 4, citywide police enforcement resulted in 13 felony arrests, 10 misdemeanor arrests and an additional 13 fireworks-related citations issued. Officers were strategically assigned throughout the city to deter criminal activity, conduct enforcement and prevent significant incidents from occurring. LBPD officers visited neighborhoods and business areas to promote the Celebrate Safely campaign and made more than 6,000 contacts with members of the community. Officers also shared information and distributed handouts, reminding people of the Public Portal and the importance of the ‘See Something, Say Something’ philosophy.
Over the course of the holiday weekend from July 2 through Sunday, July 4, there were 905 fireworks-related calls to the City’s Dispatch Center. During the 24-hour period of July 4 alone, the Dispatch Center handled 511 fireworks-related calls and 3,852 total calls (9-1-1 and the non-emergency line), resulting in 1,261 calls-for-service. In comparison, last year, the Dispatch Center handled 779 fireworks-related calls; and in 2019, the Dispatch Center responded to 460 fireworks-related calls during the 24-hour period of July 4. On an average day, the Dispatch Center will handle approximately 2,418 total calls, resulting in about 563 calls-for-service; this equates to a 59% increase in total calls this July 4. During the peak time period of 8:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. on July 4, the Dispatch Center received 301 calls (both 9-1-1 and the non-emergency line), an average of seven calls per minute. In preparation for this anticipated increase in call volume, staffing in the Dispatch Center was augmented by 20% between the hours of 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Amateur fireworks, including sparklers, cause tens of millions of dollars annually in property damage and result in many injuries, a majority of which are experienced by children. Fireworks also pose a serious health risk for veterans, people experiencing post-traumatic stress and pets. Fireworks set off in residential neighborhoods, especially those that are loud and unexpected, can trigger flashbacks for veterans and gun violence survivors experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. The noise also creates panic for many animals, and shelters fill with runaway pets every year.
The City will continue to encourage residents to Celebrate Safely throughout the year to prevent the use of illegal fireworks in Long Beach.
Media questions may be directed to the City of Long Beach Joint Information Center at email@example.com or 562.570.NEWS.
Clarifier/Correction: Our Perspective piece above is accurate in stating that LBPD made only one fireworks related arrest on July 4th (a felony) and made only non-fireworks related arrests on July 4. However the author confused the 15 non-fireworks related arrests with citations issued. LBPD issued 15 fireworks related citations. Our text above has been corrected accordingly. The author regrets the error.
Support really independent news in Long Beach. No one in LBREPORT.com's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to development interests, advocacy groups or other special interests; or is seeking or receiving benefits of City development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. LBREPORT.com isn't part of an out of town corporate cluster and no one its ownership, editorial or publishing decisionmaking has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. LBREPORT.com is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.