Police: Leave Fireworks to the Pros
By Gregg Hennigan, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Shooting off a bottle rocket in Cedar Rapids this Fourth of July could get someone cited for violating the city’s “missile” ordinance.
Even though a citation is more likely under the separate fireworks law, or not at all, the term missile is a reminder that area public safety officials want the fireworks to be left to professionals this Independence Day.
“Kids do stupid things, and sometimes those kids are 30, 40 and 50 years old,” said Sgt. Cristy Hamblin, spokeswoman for the Cedar Rapids Police Department.
In 2010, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated about 8,600 people for fireworks-related injuries, with 73 percent of the injuries occurring between June 18 and July 18, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. The National Fire Protection Association determined fireworks caused 15,500 reported fires, included 1,100 structure fires and 300 vehicle fires, that same year.
In Iowa, it is illegal to sell and use fireworks, although local governments can issue permits for fireworks displays. (Sparklers and toy “snakes” are legal.)
It’s no secret that many Iowans drive to Missouri to get fireworks, with plenty of shops found just across the state line.
At the Shelton Fireworks’ warehouse in St. Francisville, Mo., the majority of customers are from Iowa, said a manager named Becky who declined to give her last name. She said getting that business from Iowa is why the store is on the border, off Highway 27 about 85 miles south of Iowa City.
In addition to Iowa state law, many local governments have their own ordinances.
Cedar Rapids has its slingshots, stones and missiles ordinance, which could apply to throwing a firecracker, and it also has a fireworks law.
Police officers have discretion on whether to write a ticket, but Hamblin said the days surrounding the Fourth of July holiday are a busy time for officers, so fireworks citations are not a priority.
On Monday night police did take a report from a person on who said fireworks made a hole in the gutter of his home on the 1400 block of Fourth Avenue SE, she said.
In Iowa City, violators of the city’s ordinance should not count on getting a holiday break from a police officer, said Sgt. Denise Brotherton, the Police Department’s spokeswoman.
“Just because it’s the Fourth of July, it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to get a warning,” she said.
The department will get several complaints a night this time of year, Brotherton said
Violations in each city are non-scheduled fines that require court appearances.
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