The rampant use of illegal fireworks on and around the 4th of July sparked a buzz in local social media circles prompting many to wonder how the LAPD handles illegal fireworks violations. Captain Patricia Sandoval with the Wilshire Division and Captain Tim Nordquist with the Olympic Division agreed to sit with TNN and fill us in: 

TNN: What is the LAPD’s process for handling fireworks violations? 

Sandoval: Whenever there is a radio call for a firework violation, a unit will respond to the location of the call and assess.  If there are illegal fireworks present, they will be confiscated and the owner or person in possession of the fireworks will receive a citation.  

Nordquist: The processing of fireworks is governed by the joint LAPD/LAFD Fireworks Reduction Program.  This program began on June 8, 2016, and continued until July 8, 2016.

The elements of the program are as follows:

A.  Public Education

Senior Lead Officers are responsible for educating the community on the dangers of illegal fireworks.  This shall be done through community meetings, events, and school presentations.  The educational piece shall inform the public that every year, fireworks cause significant injuries to both children and adults, and are also a significant fire danger.  Community members who wish to observe fireworks displays shall be encouraged to attend professional shows.

 B.  Enforcement

Officers who encounter persons in possession of a small amount of illegal fireworks may be cited for LAMC 57.5608.1.2 (an infraction).  Those in possession of a large amount of fireworks may be arrested for section 12677 of the CA Health and Safety Code (a misdemeanor).

TNN:  Has this process changed in recent years? If so, why? 

Sandoval: This has been the Department’s common practice for years.

Nordquist: The LAPD/LAFD Fireworks Reduction Program has not changed in several years.

TNN: Does Wilshire Division handle fireworks violations differently than the Olympic Division? 

Sandoval: Each Division has a similar process.

Nordquist: These procedures apply citywide, not just to Olympic Division.

TNN: Is there a specific department that handles the fireworks violations? 

Sandoval: If the fireworks are deemed "unsafe," or if there are large quantities, the LAPD Bomb Squad is called out to the location, they assess the fireworks and will recover them.

Nordquist: Fireworks violations that involve devices which are extremely dangerous, such as an M-80 type device, are handled by the bomb squad.

TNN: Did the Wilshire and Olympic Divisions see an increase or decline in the number of fireworks violations this year? Or did it remain stable? 

Sandoval: There were approximately the same number of fireworks radio calls in Wilshire Area this year as in prior years. 

Nordquist: Olympic Division recovered large amounts of fireworks on two incidents this year.  However, in both instances, the persons in possession of the fireworks fled the scene as the officers were arriving.  The fireworks were then seized and booked but the officers were unable to cite any of the violators.  We are unable to provide information comparing this to previous years because that information is not tracked.

TNN: Officer Nordquist, how large were the two large shipments of fireworks that you confiscated? Were they for sale or distribution?

Nordquist: They were not for sale or distribution. They were for personal use.  I don't have information on the exact amount.

TNN: Is there a specific unit that responds to the fireworks violations?

Sandoval: A patrol unit will respond to the radio call, but if the fireworks are deemed "unsafe" or large in quantity, the LAPD Bomb Squad will respond. 

Nordquist: No.  Any patrol unit can respond.

TNN: What are the penalties for the violations?

Sandoval: I do not know the penalties, it's up to the court to decide, but a citation can be issued or a physical arrest can be made depending on the type of fireworks and/or quantity. 

Nordquist: We do not have information on the penalties.  You must contact the court for that information.

[Ed: Under California Health and Safety Code Fireworks Penalties, Section 12700 states, “any person who violates any provision of the State Fireworks laws or Regulations is guilty of a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of not less than $500, but not to exceed $1,000 by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, or both.”]

DANGEROUS FIREWORKS: Under California Health and Safety Code Fireworks Penalties, Section 12700(B) states, “a person in possession of unaltered dangerous fireworks in violation of the State Fireworks Law is punishable as a misdemeanor or a public offense with fines ranging from $500 to more than $50,000, depending on the gross weight of unaltered dangerous fireworks in possession.”]

TNN: Is there a period before and after July 4th that these violations are more common?

Sandoval:  Fireworks seem to be used more widely during June and July, due to the 4th of July Holiday.

Nordquist: Violations begin about a month before July 4th and increase significantly on the 2-3 days approaching the 4th.  Violations significantly diminish on the 5th

TNN: Were most of the arrests made for these violations in the June-July 2016 period primarily infractions or misdemeanors?

Sandoval: Primarily infractions and misdemeanors. 

Nordquist: This year Olympic Division confiscated 2 large amounts of fireworks but were unable to cite or arrest anyone for fireworks violations.  Officers must personally observe a specific person in possession of fireworks.  Simply hearing the fireworks and seeing a group of people where fireworks have been lit is not sufficient to cite.   

TNN:  Do you know why there continues to be such a profusion of fireworks throughout the neighborhoods?

Sandoval: There are still many cities where fireworks are legal, so with local sales of fireworks, it's very easy to get ahold of them. Despite the danger and safety warnings, citizens still enjoy possessing and using fireworks. 

Nordquist: Fireworks on the 4th of July is a traditional element of Independence Day celebrations.  I have been in Law Enforcement for 23 years and there have been fireworks used on the 4th of July my entire career.  I don't believe that will change any time soon.

TNN: It seems that there were many calls regarding illegal fireworks, but few arrests. Why is that the case? 

Sandoval: There are always multiple radio calls involving fireworks, but often times the owner or possessor is unable to be determined, so no arrest is made, although the illegal fireworks are confiscated.

Nordquist: We cannot arrest people for possession of fireworks for personal use because it is only an infraction. Arrests may only be made for possession which is obviously not for personal use and without a permit.  


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