Des Moines Police Department sees 10-fold increase in fireworks complaints

Fireworks for the Fourth of July

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The number of fireworks complaints to the Des Moines Police Department in June and the first week of July is nearly 10 times the total for all of 2019.

Police have taken nearly 2,000 complaints in the last five weeks, compared to less than 200 last year.

"Obviously the accessibility of fireworks in our city, the fact that we don't have those commercial shows like we're used to having--we weren't able to get out and enjoy them with groups, and the fact that everyone's just been cooped up" says Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek.

He says enforcing the city's ban on fireworks use isn't as simply finding people breaking the law and then writing tickets.

"The most complicating factor when it comes to issuing a fireworks citation is that we absolutely have to have a complaining witness who's willing to testify in court to make that charge viable. Without those (witnesses) we just can't move forward" Parizek says.

He says 80 percent of all the calls taken by the department on Independence Day came from people complaining about fireworks.

Parizek says responding to all those calls stretches officers thin.

"With the protests and the riots we've seen, we don't have any extra people to put on the street right now. What we did try to do was recognize that this was a high priority for the people who were being disturbed--our veterans (who may have PTSD), pet owners, and folks who are just trying to get some sleep. We tried to get to them as soon as we could" he says.

Parizek says the department took nearly 850 calls on the three days of the long Independence Day weekend, and nearly 1,100 calls just in the month of June.

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