Friday, June 26, 2009

And so it begins…

From the inbox, earlier this week:

“The 4th of July is nearly two weeks away and it is starting in my neighborhood already. Fireworks. Illegal fireworks. We don't want to tie up the phone lines to the police department every time we hear an m-80, a cherry bomb or bottle rockets going off but we also don't believe we should have to be subject to the harassment of the law breakers for simply reminding them that fireworks are illegal in our city. What do we do?

I have tremendous respect for our police officers and I know they are very busy but there is a complete lack of respect for our officers when people openly light fireworks they know are illegal. In fact there is a police officer who lives on the block to our South where fireworks routinely go off. I'm not trying to get the officer in trouble. I am merely showing the complete disregard some of our citizens have for adherence to this particular ordinance.

There is apparently a belief that even if caught there is no significant consequence to breaking this law. I hope that something can be done this year to change that perception.”

My reply:

“Illegal fireworks are an unbearable problem for us, because such a large percentage of the otherwise-law-abiding public chooses to ignore the law by either setting off illegal fireworks or allowing their children to do so. We have tried various approaches in recent years with scant success. You can read about our issues, attempts, and results on my personal blog. These three posts from 2007 and 2008 deal with the issue:

Let the games begin
Will it work?
Did it work?

We haven't given up, it's just impossible for us to effectively reverse this
trend without a lot more help than we are receiving from people who ought to know better--like your neighbors.”


Trevor Brass said...

Did this citizen attempt to make personal contact with the offending pyromanicas before asking police to solve the problem? The law can't be used as a blunt tool to cure all of society's ills.

Anonymous said...

In my old neighborhood, we had a fellow who would shoot off giant city-show type shells ALL the time, not just around the 4th. He would have these personal "shows" just willy nilly whenever. He and his kids would set off those giant "strings" of ladyfingers, the ones that are all connected so about 1000 could go off in a series.

Then, there was an accident. A "dud" shell failed to go airborne, an it exploded on the ground. It blew down his privacy fence, all the windows in his house and his neighbor's house, and he was pretty seriously injured. The sound was horrendous, because it occurred so close and not several hundred feet away.

That pretty much ended all that fireworks nonsense. I'm sorry it took a catastrophe for him to stop. But I'm not sorry he stopped.

And believe me, many people in the neighborhood asked him to stop and he told them "sue me."

Anonymous said...

The problem with enforcing this kind of law is this: a lot of people like to light off fireworks because it is a lot of fun, and even though it's illegal, they know that there are enough people doing it that the likelihood of getting caught or punished is minimal. On top of that, even if they are caught they are willing to bear the punishment because the consequences are also minimal. Therefore, a rational person could argue that the benefit outweighs the cost. Either the city needs to adopt a harsher punishment or get really creative.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

I can't wait to go to my favorite fireworks stand and go home and light some fireworks.

Steve said...

Fireworks don't bother me much unless they are those huge, cannon-like bombs going off close by at two in the morning. Fortunately, my dogs don't have a problem with them either. However, I know lots of people whose dogs are deathly scared of fireworks. One or two nights of it are bearable, but two weeks or more is simply too much.

The other problem is the mess left behind, and lots of it stays on the public sidewalks, the streets, and people's yards who don't even do any fireworks of their own.

I don't really know what the answer is. Most of these people don't mean any harm, they just like blowing things up and watching the sparks fly. So do I.

I think the only answer is harsher penalties and more strict enforcement. I know it would be a burden for a couple of weeks, but I think after a few years of it, there would be a lot less problem.

Instead of asking the violators to stop, take the illegal fireworks, and search the house and car for any more. Then, take them down to jail for the rest of the night, at least, and make them pay a large fine before they can go home. I bet they wouldn't do it again next year.

ol'broad said...

I haven't noticed yet this year on the Lincoln Stations, but have on Omaha: lots of ads to head for Rockport and get your fireworks. Then on the news they tell about all the people getting caught running across the border. Seems like the stations are accessories, and people should know better than to believe all they hear on tv.

Anonymous said...

As a kid, it WAS fun to shoot off fireworks...but that was in a small town where you had lots of room. Someone in our neighborhood shoots the BIG stuff and last week we were outside to experience the debris falling on our house, deck and patio. There are no easy answers. I make a point to be home and the hose ready. Not to mention, I don't want to drive thru the crap in the street.

Anonymous said...


I hope that you're still an amateur endurance athlete with low blood pressure, because it's going to go up when you read this systolic-stimulating Q&A from the Stinkin' Urinal-Jar's "Neighborhood Extra":

Q. With all the talk about the city budget, what city services would you be willing to cut to have taxes lowered?

A. Where do I start? If you look at the Police Department, lots of money could be cut there. We're a relatively quiet, crime-free city, and we don't need a huge police presence. I attended the Downtown Lincoln Festival last weekend, and I was amazed at the police presence there. It was kind of overwhelming.

Susan Kirchmann
Lincoln Attorney

Quiet and crime-free?! One might surmise that Kirchmann must never leave her home in the Quail Valley subdivision, but here's the mind-boggling part - Kirchmann is a criminal defense attorney! You'd think someone in that line of work would have to find another legal specialty if the city were indeed so "crime-free", because they'd have no clients. Maybe you could arrange a ride-along in the "core" on a weekend night, or at least blog about this sort of attitude (one more time) on Monday.

I think she just doesn't like cops...but without you, she'd be out of work.

Tom Casady said...


Ya think the police department might have something to do with the fact that we are a quiet and relatively crime-free city?

All those officers at Celebrate Lincoln were off-duty, employed by the Updowntowners, who apparently were willing to pay for them in order to keep the event relatively crime-free. No tax dollars on this one.

Anonymous said...

No I don't think this city is relativly crime-free because of the LPD. I think it's crime-free because it's full of people that realize crime doesn't pay. So don't pat yourself on the back, Tom.

Tom Casady said...

3:34 -

Well, you don't see what I see. Maybe in your bubble it's different.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, that court calendar must be full of people who "realize crime doesn't pay". In any case, if the city was relatively crime-free (relative to what - Omaha? KCMO? Chicago? NOLA?), then we wouldn't be in need of a larger county jail with more cells.

Steve said...

I don't always pay attention to the statistics presented by anyone with an agenda. Lincoln may well be relatively crime free when you compare it to similar cities. That's a good thing regardless of the reasons for it.

Still, we have assaults, burglaries, robberies, and now even bombings (molatov cocktails) on a daily basis somewhere in the city. The sad part is that so much of it is done by so few people. It seems any time someone is arrested for one of these crimes, they already have a long history of similar activity.

I don't blame the police for this. The Chief says the reality is that we drop charges and offer plea bargains to reduced charges because we don't have the capacity in our courts and our jails. We could put more resources into the system to accomodate this burden, but it's not going to help if we don't recognize that these repeat offenders are not going to stop their illegal behaviors. They need to be confined away from the rest of society so that the rest of us can continue to our pursuit of happiness without the constant threat of criminal activity.

Anonymous said...

Personally, think it's a little of both. Good police department plus good people. Lincoln gets a lot of citizens from small-town Nebraska, and those are usually the better behaved ones.

Just my opinion...

Tom Casady said...

12:38 -

I agree. I guess what frustrates me about this attorney's opinion is the fact that Lincoln taxpayers are already reaping a huge "peace dividend" by virtue of Lincoln's "relatively low" crime rate. The taxpayer's fund the smallest police force per capita in Nebraska, and the 180th smallest of the 194 cities in Nebraska and its surrounding states. If we were the same relative size as the Grand Island Police Department, the bill would be somewhere around $10 million more per year for police services in Lincoln. If we were the same size per capita as Omaha, it would be more like $13 million annually.

You'd think there would be a little acknowledgment of the incredible efficiency and effectiveness of this small force, rather than a criticism that there were too many police , in her view, at a street festival. To reiterate, they were all hired by the Updowntowners for their event--not supplied at City expense.

Anonymous said...

I used to be involved with Updowntowners and helped produce July Jamm for 15 years...To reiterate: UDT is REQUIRED by the city to hire off-duty officers as a condition of the liquor license. No tax dollars go toward those events.

Security is one of the largest line items in the budget for these events.

When I was involved, there was usually at least one issue per night that required police assistance and we were grateful.

My personal "favorite" was a woman who was clearly fixing to drop off 2 kids, ages 5 and 7, for the evening at the street festival filled with 5,000 adult strangers so she could party elsewhere. I told she could not do so, so she left my gate and dropped them off somewhere else.

30 minutes later, two scared and sobbing children were turned over to LPS/Child Protective Services. Momma was mightily pissed off when she showed up three hours later looking for her kids, who I suppose were by then, in bed at Cedars or some other safe place.

She quieted quickly when she was put in the squad car and charged with neglect.

Here's an example of why we need police: Some people are exceptionally stupid.