By Staff Reports
(Victorville)– At last night’s City Council Meeting, the City of Victorville released the summary report from its Fireworks Enforcement Task Force that was charged with enforcing the City’s ban on illegal fireworks. The Task Force, comprised of personnel from the City’s Fire, Police, Code Enforcement and Animal Care & Control Divisions and the City Manager’s Office, combined enforcement sweeps with a month-long public awareness campaign to deter illegal fireworks use and to promote safety.
Eleven random enforcement sweeps conducted between June 14 and July 7 resulted in 77 citations and deterrent contacts. The number of citations issued increased eight times over last year’s total, and more than half of the citations are attributable to the City’s new online reporting tool that enabled residents to report illegal fireworks activity anonymously. The Task Force also confiscated 3,120 pounds of fireworks, issued $6,700 in fines and arrested two people. In addition, the City’s Animal Care & Control Division responded to 97 calls for loose dogs during the task force enforcement period.
“Catching someone in the act of using illegal fireworks can be difficult, but our residents really were the MVPs this year,” said Victorville Fire Chief, Greg Benson. “With our community’s help, we were able to increase the number of citations issued by 800 percent over last year’s total. When a fireworks report included a specific address, we were 50 percent more likely to issue a citation.”
During its strategic messaging campaign, the City used social media, press releases, portable electronic message boards and the jumbotron at the AutoPark to communicate four key messages: fireworks are illegal in the City of Victorville, fireworks are dangerous and pose a threat of fire and bodily injury, fireworks can trigger extreme stress in people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and fireworks can cause distress for pets.
Between June 5 and July 6, the City issued a total of 17 social media posts. An analysis of social media interactions indicates overwhelming community support for the City’s fireworks enforcement effort, but also some skepticism in the City’s ability to stop the use of illegal fireworks completely. An analysis of 272 Facebook comments show 87 Percent supported the City’s enforcement efforts. Additionally, 61 percent of the comments were in favor of expanded enforcement efforts with some suggesting the City increase the cost of fines as a more forceful deterrent.
The City of Victorville piloted its Fireworks Enforcement Task Force last year after a fire caused by illegal fireworks engulfed landscaping and came dangerously close to homes in a local neighborhood. The City used lessons learned from its pilot program to create a more comprehensive program this year, and City officials plan to further expand the work of the Task Force next year.
“The overwhelming message we’ve received from our residents is that they agree with our ban on fireworks, and they want to see increased enforcement,” said Benson. “We will use lessons learned to further expand our enforcement efforts next year. We’re already investigating ways to increase fines and to adjust our municipal code to enable our officers to give the maximum fine on every single occurrence of throwing a projectile.”
As an additional deterrent, the City plans to publish the names of everyone who is issued a citation for illegal fireworks next year. Other improvements include increased branding for the public awareness campaign and starting the campaign earlier.
The City’s Fireworks Task Force Summary Report is available at: https://vv.city/FireworksReport2019.
Located in Southern California at the high-point between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Victorville is the leading city for both industry and retail in the High Desert region. Victorville is a growing, vibrant community that is home to approximately 125,000 residents and some of the area’s largest employers. Clean air, abundant mountain vistas, family-friendly recreational activities, spectacular sunsets and breathtaking night skies entice locals and visitors alike to fall in love with this city that is within a few hours of SoCal beaches, National Parks, mountain retreats, other major attractions. Ontario International Airport is less than an hour away.