At least 100. That’s how many tickets Tacoma police Capt. Mike Miller, speaking at this time last year, predicted it would take to ensure a safe and comfortable Fourth of July.
Number of tickets actually issued this year: 30, at the most.
That figure may represent progress, but it remains a disappointment to Tacomans who hoped this would be the year when police really got tough with the pyromaniacs who declare war on their neighborhoods.
It is especially surprising given the city’s additional investment in fireworks enforcement this year.
Last year, the department assigned just one officer to fireworks patrol and handed out 10 tickets. After taking a drubbing from the City Council, police vowed to do better. The department beefed up staffing, putting four officers on the beat this year.
But citations didn’t keep pace. Police officials know of at least 17 tickets written between June 28 and July 6; they expect a few more will dribble in as officers submit their reports.
A drop in fireworks complaints – down from 918 calls during the holiday week last year to 835 – leads some to believe that the siege wasn’t as bad in some neighborhoods as years past. Anecdotal reports from the city’s East Side, where fireworks violations were worst last year, also give that impression.
But the city shouldn’t put too much stock in a decline in complaints or read a one-year lull as a trend. There were still plenty of scofflaws who insisted on endangering people, pets and property in the name of “patriotism,” and plenty of Tacomans who were just as terrorized.
Many citizens have simply given up trying to summon police, instead retreating indoors when the nightly barrage begins.
This year’s enforcement might have done little to encourage them to pick up the phone. Of the 835 calls made to 911, officers responded to roughly half.
Police officials say a better fireworks enforcement plan is in the works for next year when the department won’t have the challenge of simultaneously policing a Tall Ships festival and the city’s annual Freedom Fair on the Ruston Way waterfront.
The City Council should hold them to that promise. It must if the city is to ever convince amateur pyrotechnicians that no means no.