Kansas City area police ready to crack down on illegal fireworks

As area families celebrate the Fourth of July with everything from family barbecues to bottle rockets, two blue barrels full of water are ready at the Grandview Police Department.

That’s where officers will dunk fireworks they confiscate this weekend, along with ones found abandoned in the street or fields after revelers spot a cop car approaching. And in a town where fireworks aren’t allowed, Grandview police officials expect those barrels will get plenty of use.

“Somebody will always call and say, ‘Those doggone neighbor kids are shooting off firecrackers,’” said Grandview Deputy Chief Dean Hutson. “And we take it seriously if they call and want police service.”

Similar calls are expected around the metro area. In towns that allow fireworks, like Belton, there can be restrictions on what kind and when they can be set off. Hence the calls each year reporting neighborhood violators.

For the towns that ban fireworks altogether — including Grandview, Kansas City, Overland Park and Olathe — there always seem to be residents who know the law but try to sneak in a show of their own.

As Kansas City Police Officer Jason Cooley put it: “It’s going to be a busy weekend.”

Police say safety is key, especially when some people are buying homemade fireworks that can be stronger. That’s one reason, Cooley said, Kansas City officers will issue tickets in some cases and seize the fireworks.

In Olathe, where digital signs are posted across the city warning that fireworks aren’t permitted, officers will prioritize calls as usual. But they always make sure to respond to fireworks complaints, said Olathe Police Sgt. Bryan Hill.

“We do get to them,” Hill said. “All of them. They don’t go away.”

And in Overland Park, a few officers will be dedicated this weekend to handling fireworks complaints.

“Even with that, we’ll probably have a hard time keeping up,” said Officer Gary Mason, an Overland Park police spokesman. “We encourage officers to have zero tolerance. We encourage them to write (tickets for) everybody.”

Your first fireworks violation in Overland Park carries a $201 fine. If you get another one in a 12-month period, that’ll be $401, Mason said.

Last year, Overland Park officers responded to 146 fireworks complaints around the Independence Day holiday and gave out 44 citations, according to information provided by the city.

One neighborhood in the Northeast area of Kansas City used memories of last year, and years past, to take action this holiday weekend.

Residents in the Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood pooled money and hired two off-duty police officers to keep revelers and their fireworks out of nearby Concourse Park. The two off-duty officers will work Friday night, and neighbors hope to have them out again Saturday night.

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“This year we finally said, ‘Enough is enough,’” said Leslie Caplan, neighborhood association president. “You wouldn’t believe what Concourse Park looks like on July 5.”

And with the noise, she said, “it feels like a war zone.”

The hope for police and residents across the metro area is to have a safe Fourth.

In Grandview, officers likely will hand out a good portion of warnings for fireworks violations. At least the first time they’re called out.

“We don’t initially go out and come down all heavy on people,” said Hutson, the deputy chief. “We like to warn people, like, ‘Look, here’s the deal, fireworks are illegal within the city.’ Nine times out of 10, it does the trick.”

But if officers are called out again? Hutson said the fireworks are headed for the blue barrels.

Source : http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article26429050.html

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