Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2016  
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  Police Overwhelmed by Fireworks and Celebratory Gunfire
July 5, 2016

Last night, Police Chief Allwyn Brown wrote:

The Communication Center is experiencing a high volume of fireworks calls from neighborhoods across the city, in combination with recurring ShotSpotter activations - numbers that easily far exceed police officer staffing.  Officers are making their way to calls as promptly as they can.

Independence Day and New Year's Eve in Richmond historically experience high volumes of celebratory gunfire.  

Of course, our protocol on prioritizing service calls remains in effect so that officers on or responding to fireworks details would divert or break to handle more serious crimes in progress.

I'm sorry that the police response isn't better.  We'll do an after the fact review to help us understand why this year's impact seem to be greater.

Fireworks are illegal in Richmond, as they are in all of Contra Costa County. See below from the Richmond Municipal Code. Violation is a misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail. Discharging a firearm in Richmond is also a misdemeanor.

Chapter 11.05 - FIREWORKS
Sections: 11.05.010 - Definitions.
For the purpose of this chapter, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section unless the context specifically indicates otherwise:
"Dangerous fireworks." Those fireworks listed and defined in California Health and Safety Code Sections 12505 and 12561 and the relevant sections of Title 19 of the California Code of Regulations, as the same may be amended from time to time
(b) "Exempt fireworks." Any special item containing pyrotechnics compositions which the State Fire Marshal, with the advice of the State Fire Advisory Board, has investigated and determined to be limited to industrial, commercial or agricultural use, or religious ceremonies when authorized by a permit granted by the authority having jurisdiction.
(c) "Fireworks." Any device containing chemical elements and chemical compounds capable of burning independently of the oxygen of the atmosphere and producing audible, visual, mechanical or thermal effects which are useful as pyrotechnic devices or for entertainment. These items include, but are not limited to, devices designated by the manufacturer as fireworks, torpedoes, skyrockets, roman candles, rocket, Daygo bombs, M-80s, sparklers, party poppers, paper caps, chasers, fountains, smoke sparks, aerial bombs, fireworks kits and firecrackers. This term includes both "dangerous fireworks" and "safe and sane" fireworks.
(d)"Safe and sane fireworks" or "State-approved fireworks." Any fireworks that do not come within the definition of "dangerous fireworks" or "exempt fireworks."
 (Ord. No. 21-11 N.S., § 1, 9-20-2011)
11.05.020 - Possession, use or sale of fireworks prohibited. It is unlawful and a misdemeanor for any person or entity to possess, sell, give away, store, use, display, display for sale, explode, ignite or discharge any fireworks within the City limits except by valid permit as "exempt fireworks" or by a valid special event permit for a public event authorized by the City.
(a) Any special event permit or exempt fireworks permit is not transferable and shall only be valid for the date of the specific event.
(b) In addition to criminal action, any person or entity who possesses, sells, gives away, stores, uses, displays, displays for sale, explodes, ignites or discharges any fireworks in violation of this chapter is subject to Administrative Citations as set forth in Chapter 2.62.
11.05.030 - Seizure of fireworks. Any peace officer, fire marshal or the Richmond Fire Chief or his or her designee, may seize, take, remove or cause to be removed any fireworks possessed, used, stored or displayed in violation of this chapter.

Nevertheless, fireworks and celebratory gunfire are rampant in Richmond on the 4th of July and New Years Eve. See taken from my home about 10:00 PM.

Just three years ago, a couple died, and their son was seriously injured by fireworks in Richmond.

This is beyond the capacity of the police to deal with. The only way it will ever change is for the community to change its culture of do it yourself fireworks.