City preps for return of illegal fireworks

Police present ways to crack down on issue

SOLEDAD — With time running out to make changes to the fireworks ordinance, Soledad Police Department has been looking at alternatives to crack down on illegal fireworks within city limits.

“We can try to increase our enforcement level and see if that makes a difference,” said Police Chief Eric Sills.

Sills wants to try to treat the use of illegal fireworks for the Fourth of July as not just a single day but multiple days leading up to the Independence Day celebration.

“I’m looking at increasing my staffing enforcement to four people that Friday to eight people the day before with three on overtime,” he said.

On the Fourth, Sills said that 10 police officers will be on duty, including himself and Deputy Chief Damon Wasson. This year the department is looking to use unmarked cars as well as marked police vehicles to catch people using illegal fireworks.

In order to cover the cost of the police officers during the holiday week, Sills said he is looking at 12 shifts of overtime. The estimated cost is $7,500 for the six days.

Soledad Police and the Soledad Fire Department have been dealing with another problem in regards to illegal fireworks: What to do with these illegal fireworks after catching a violator?

In trying to find out what to do with the fireworks, Sills called around to other cities and even Monterey County to find out if there was a way to transport illegal fireworks in a safe way. The county referred Sills to Clean Harbor, which said it only dealt with government entities not private entities, such as the police or fire departments.

“We got in trouble, the entire state did and we had to get rid of all the inventory that we had confiscated over the years,” said Arson Investigator Richard Lopez.

As of the last City Council meeting, Sills said police officers will be citing anyone who sets off illegal fireworks, but they won’t be able to confiscate the fireworks.

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