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Police: Cedar Rapids saw decrease in fireworks complaints, increase in citations

Tubes of fireworks wait to be packed up at a Bellino Fireworks stand located in a parking lot on Edgewood Road Southwest and Williams Boulevard Southwest in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Tubes of fireworks wait to be packed up at a Bellino Fireworks stand located in a parking lot on Edgewood Road Southwest and Williams Boulevard Southwest in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Calls for service involving fireworks between July 1 and the Fourth of July in Cedar Rapids were down 36.7 percent this year compared with the same period in 2018, data from the police department shows.

Officers responded to 301 calls during that period this year, compared with 476 calls regarding fireworks on the same days last year.

Police responded to 11 fireworks complaints July 1, 18 on July 2, 88 on July 3 and 184 on July Fourth.

Cedar Rapids police Lt. Tony Robinson said the drop in fireworks complaints could be the result of many factors.

“It could just be that the novelty has worn off since the state passed its law two years ago” he said. In 2017, the state legalized the possession, sale and use of consumer-grade fireworks on a limited basis, allowing Iowans access to products beyond sparklers, caps and snakes.

“It could also be that the public has a better understanding of the city ordinance that bans the use of fireworks within the city limits or maybe there were less vendors selling fireworks in Cedar Rapids,” Robinson added.

The risk of costly citations also has made a difference.

Public safety spokesman Greg Buelow said officers have issued 26 citations so far this year for fireworks violations. Only nine citations were issued in 2018, the data shows, while eight people were cited in 2017.

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This year, Robinson said, the police department brought in officers to work overtime shifts during which their sole purpose was to respond to fireworks complaints. That targeted enforcement, he said, likely led to the increase in citations.

The penalty for a municipal infraction can be a fine of up to $625, Buelow said.

Additionally, Buelow said, SAFE-CR is reviewing calls for service for fireworks-related activities and will notify property owners of potential “disturbance of the peace” violations. Three “founded” calls for service for disturbing the peace in one year could lead to a nuisance property designation, he said.

The city also saw a decrease in fireworks-related fire incidents this year, Buelow said.

The data shows firefighters responded to two fireworks-related fires this year — one on July Fourth and the second Saturday. In 2018, the city had six fireworks-related fires, including a fire that caused roughly $30,000 in damage to a detached garage and car, as well as a serious hand injury.

In 2017, Buelow said, the city had 13 fire incidents stemming from fireworks, and 21 injuries were reported to hospitals.

As for this year’s incidents, Buelow said firefighters were called at 10:10 p.m. July Fourth to 1721 Eighth Ave. SE for a detached garage fire. The fire, according to Buelow, broke out when the property owners discarded used fireworks into a trash can inside the garage, causing about $800 in damage to the garage.

The second incident, Buelow said, occurred Saturday when firefighters responded to a grass fire just before midnight at Grant Elementary School, 54 Outlook Dr. SW. Buelow said a portable toilet was destroyed, and multiple fireworks wrappers and bottle rocket sticks were located in the area.

Outside the city, data from the Linn County Sheriff’s Office showed the number of calls for service likely stayed consistent with previous years.

According to the numbers, between July 1 and 4 p.m. Monday, deputies responded to 787 calls for service, a slight drop from the 807 calls deputies fielded in 2018.

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Deputies fielded other types of calls, including two OWIs, 14 motor vehicle wrecks — eight involving property damage and six involving injuries — and three water rescues.

In Cedar Rapids, officers handled nine OWIs, 15 public intoxications, one disorderly conduct and nine simple assaults between July 1 and Sunday.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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