by Timothy Rutt
Westside Altadena residents have complained for years about loud, commercial-grade fireworks illegally firing off in their neighborhoods on July 4. Altadena's sheriff captain says that he is beefing up patrols and enforcing "zero tolerance" on illegal fireworks, but catching and charging the people involved is "difficult, it's very difficult."
Altadena Sheriff Capt. John S. Benedict said that there will be two additional patrol cars out on the evening of July 4, bringing the total to five for the night. "We're looking at no tolerance towards fireworks, and we'll be issuing citations, making arrests, and taking appropriate actions," Benedict said.
But he acknowledged that it's not easy. "It's a chasing game is what it is," Benedict said. If a resident calls in a fireworks complaint, "by the time we're there, they're gone, or sequestered somewhere until we leave," Benedict said.
Lighting illegal fireworks is a misdemeanor offense, Benedict said, which means it has to be witnessed by an officer or a citizen's arrest has to be made for charges to be filed. "Most of these are misdemeanor offenses not committed in our presence, so that makes it very hard to take action,' Benedict said.
The onslaught of hot, dry weather only makes the problem more urgent, Benedict said. "I understand people's frustration. I understand people are scared, because the fire potential is high … obviously, we need the ability of the community to put themselves together and say 'this is not the thing to do.'"
To report illegal fireworks, call the Altadena Sheriff Station at 798-1131.