Fullerton Police recently seized over 430 pounds of illegal fireworks from three different investigations, the department has revealed. According to FPD spokesperson Cpl. Billy Phu, the department’s Directed Enforcement Team monitored online sale platforms and responded to tips by members of the public to locate individuals either using or selling the dangerous incendiaries.
The total weights of the three recent seizures—114.4 pounds, 188.5 pounds, and 128.5 pounds—elevated each of the violations to the level of a felony. Possession of less than 100 pounds is a misdemeanor, but still a crime. Fullerton Police determined that, in each case, the suspects intended the fireworks for sale. According to Cpl. Phu, “All three subjects were arrested for a felony fireworks possession charge and sent to Orange County Jail.”
California laws governing fireworks are far stricter than those of some neighboring states where more powerful fireworks, including aerials, can be legally purchased. In recent years sales and use of banned fireworks has accelerated, fueled by illegal imports from southwestern states and from Mexico. Scanning the Southern California horizon on a 4th of July evening, it can be difficult to distinguish legal professional civic fireworks displays from countless, sometimes only slightly smaller, exploding rocket clusters launched from neighborhood locations near and far. Unless they are part of professional sanctioned displays, all aerial fireworks are, by definition, illegal, and are not sold by the “safe and sane” vendors allowed to operate fireworks booths in Fullerton.
Even legally purchased fireworks in Fullerton are only allowed to be used between 10:00am and 10:00pm on July 4. Legal fireworks are sold from booths operated by local non-profit groups who enter an annual lottery to vie for the chance to raise money for their organizations. Fees added to sales from the booths partially fund FPD’s enforcement and investigations of illegal fireworks.
Use of illegal fireworks spiked last year during the pandemic when many people spent more time at home instead of traveling during summer. This year, like last year, has seen dangerously dry climatic conditions throughout the State. Some areas of Fullerton, like the Brea Dam and Coyote Hills areas, are completely off limits for all fireworks, even legal ones.
Locating the source of illegal fireworks use can be frustrating to both residents and police. “Just as it may be difficult for our community members who report firework activities to identify the specific location where the fireworks are being used, it is difficult for Officers who respond to the call to locate the specific location as well,” Cpl. Phu said. “Also, being a misdemeanor crime, Officers must observe the actual violation in order to take enforcement action. Many times, Officers responding to calls for service arrive after the crime has already been committed. Being specific about the location or time of day the activity is usually occurring can help Officers better locate the offense.”
Asked how interdiction efforts this year compare to last year, Cpl. Phu said that the department’s efforts this year are “on-track to be similar to results from previous years.”
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