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Santa Maria Police issue 25 citations for illegal fireworks during July 4 weekend

Santa Maria Police issue 25 citations for illegal fireworks during July 4 weekend

  • Updated
063020-sm-fireworks

Illegal fireworks were recently confiscated by a Santa Maria Police Department task force after an individual was spotted lighting fireworks in a city street. The task force roams the city searching for illegal fireworks and responds to citizens' complaints about their use.

Santa Maria Police issued 25 citations for illegal fireworks from Thursday through Sunday and responded to more than 200 calls for fireworks on the Fourth of July, according to officials. 

Most of the illegal fireworks citations were issued in the two days before the Fourth of July holiday, with 11 issued on Thursday and 11 more issued on Friday, according to Santa Maria spokesman Mark van de Kamp, who added one additional citation was issued on July 4 and two citations were given on July 5. Four citations were issued in June. 

Additionally, police responded to 458 calls for service on July 4, with 202 of those as calls for illegal fireworks. 

The holiday weekend marked an active one for Santa Maria Police, who responded to a total of 1,127 calls for service between Friday and Sunday night, according to Lt. Paul Van Meel. 

"The activity level in general, not specifically related to fireworks, was definitely higher and busier," Van Meel said, adding more demand for service was placed on the Santa Maria Police Department than in the recent past. 

Only so-called safe-and-sane fireworks, which include those that don't fly or explode, were allowed in the city during the 12-hour period of 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on July 4. Anyone caught using illegal fireworks, or safe-and-sane fireworks outside the prescribed July 4 time period, faces a citation of up to $1,000. 

The city paid $4,000 for its illegal fireworks campaign this year, which included more than 22,000 billing inserts for each utility account, TV and radio advertisements and bus posters. Every safe-and-sane fireworks vendor also was required to include a bilingual flyer with each purchase, according to van de Kamp. 

All citations issued this year came from the 12-officer Santa Maria Police task force, led by Lt. Mark Streker, that was deployed to various parts of the city to investigate illegal fireworks.

The task force was active from June 29 to July 5 and included a plainclothes officer assigned to a two-person marked or uniformed patrol team, said van de Kamp, adding that teams of six officers patrolled on some nights, while a team of 12 patrolled on other nights. 

Preapproved overtime funds paid for the task force, with the city shelling out between $15,000 and $18,000 to pay for the officers, one supervisor and one dispatcher, according to van de Kamp. 

The number of citations could rise as officials review hundreds of reports for illegal fireworks left by residents through the city's hotline, online reporting system and to the Police Department. 

The city has received at least 130 calls through the illegal fireworks hotline since June 17, according to van de Kamp, who added that the city received 16 complaints through its online reporting system. Dispatchers also have fielded hundreds of calls, he added. 

Of the 16 online complaints, two came from Orcutt, which is outside the city's jurisdiction, van de Kamp said. 

"Some of those who utilized the online form are generally either not willing to testify, did not complete the form, or did not provide the documentary evidence that the city needs to take action on their reports," van de Kamp noted. 

Calls to the hotline were personally returned by Streker and members of the Santa Maria Police community services unit, which also made home visits. 

In 2019, Santa Maria Police issued a total of 32 citations for illegal fireworks at $1,000 each, although not all of them have been paid, according to van de Kamp. 

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The following is taken from the Lompoc Police Department's calls-for-service log and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office daily arrest log. Those appearing as "arrested" are only suspected of the crime indicated but are presumed innocent.

The following is taken from the Santa Maria Police Department's calls-for-service log and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office daily arrest log. Those appearing as "arrested" are only suspected of the crime indicated but are presumed innocent.

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