Chief Tim Mattos of the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety reported that changes in Rohnert Park’s approach to fireworks were successful during the recent 4th of July.
At a July 9 city council meeting, Chief Mattos reported that the department issued 59 citations for possession or use of illegal fireworks, an increase from zero citations in 2017 and four in 2018. The citations include a $1,000 fine and serve as a deterrent to the use of illegal fireworks which increase risks for fires and injuries. In addition, city councilmembers noted fewer problems with noise than in prior years.
Recent changes in city rules included reducing the days that legal, safe and sane fireworks could be used from five days to three. It appears that reducing the days fireworks could be used did not significantly reduce the level of sales that support local non-profits. The council also approved and authorized the Public Safety Department to cite property owners where illegal fireworks were used with a social host ordinance.
Councilwoman Stafford stated, “I absolutely think the new host responsibility made a big difference, and I think we’re going to see a bigger difference next year.” Vice Mayor Callinan added that “[with the old laws, you had to know who was lighting that firework and that was impossible to do. This year, if it came from your property, the property owner is responsible. And as we can tell, it made a big difference.”
Extensive outreach via social media was also implemented in the weeks prior to the 4th through the use of Facebook, YouTube, Nextdoor, and Instagram to relay the city’s message about the dangers and penalties associated with illegal fireworks.
Additionally, the Department of Public Safety initiated use of the Nail ‘em app. The app allows residents to report the sale or use of illegal fireworks to law enforcement. 89 reports were made through the app that provided assistance to Public Safety Officers trying to pinpoint the location of illegal firework use.
An all-hands-on-deck approach with Public Safety Officers created a significant presence.
Changes made this year are expected to carry over into next year as residents realize the consequences of using illegal fireworks and the city’s aggressive enforcement efforts.